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Medical Marijuana and Stroke

By on April 18, 2013

Summary (click to view)

  • Stroke is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain
  • Stroke often leads to death or permanent disability
  • Cannabinoids can reduce brain damage and inflammation when given after a stroke
  • Cannabinoids can also reduce atherosclerosis (blood vessel damage), which is a common cause of stroke
  • Human trials have yet to be conducted, but researchers are calling for further studies
  • – Stroke is a disease that is as common as it is debilitating. Every year, approximately 15 million people suffer from stroke worldwide. Sadly, 5 million of these people die and another 5 million become permanently disabled.

    In the United States, someone suffers from a stroke every 40 seconds.

    But while heart disease remains a major public health crisis in countries around the world, recent evidence suggests that marijuana can improve the outcomes of both atherosclerosis – a major risk factor for stroke – as well as the brain damage caused by stroke itself.

    What Is Stroke?

    Stroke is defined as a rapid loss of brain function caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. This may result from internal bleeding of the brain – known as a hemorrhage – or a blockage of blood flow somewhere in the body – known as ischemic stroke.

    Among the various mechanisms involved with the progression of post-stroke symptoms is the inflammatory response of the immune system. Inflammation is a major concern in stroke patients, as it can lead to the release of various toxic molecules, which can induce further brain damage as well as disrupt the blood-brain barrier.

    How Can Marijuana Help?

    The endocannabinoid system – made up of the body’s own cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors – is responsible for a variety of biological functions relevant to stroke. Specifically, the endocannabinoid system has been found to regulate inflammation, brain cell survival and blood flow.

    THC and CBD – the most common cannabinoids found in medical marijuana – are known to reduce inflammation by acting on the cannabinoid receptors of immune cells. Cannabinoid receptors are found in numerous parts of the body and also happen to be expressed by a number of immune cells found in the brain, including astrocytes and microglia. Furthermore, recent studies show that cannabinoid receptors are over expressed by neurons and immune cells of the brain upon stroke-induced inflammation, which has led scientists to directly investigate the use of cannabinoids in treating symptoms of stroke.

    In a study published in 2012, researchers found that administering JWH-133 – a synthetic cannabinoid that acts on CB2 receptors – to animal models of stroke could reduce overall brain damage and neurological impairments. While JWH-133 was given 10 minutes after the stroke in the study, other studies have found cannabinoids to still be effective when administered up to 3 hours later.

    Besides reducing inflammation, cannabinoids are also believed to reduce brain damage by increasing the survival of neurons. Interestingly, research shows that levels of anandamide and 2-AG – cannabinoids produced naturally by the body – accumulate at an exponential rate in areas of the brain affected by stroke. These findings suggest that the endocannabinoid system may be a part of the body’s natural defense system against strokes.

    Lastly, cannabinoid research seems to support the use of medical marijuana for treating atherosclerosis, which is one of the most common causes of stroke as well as other heart diseases. Studies (Rajesh et al., 2007 and Steffens et al., 2005) show that both THC and CBD can act to protect blood vessels from damage caused by a variety of factors, including a high-glucose diet.

    What This Means For Your Health

    While there is strong evidence of the effectiveness of cannabinoids – specifically those that act on CB2 receptors – in reducing the brain damage and impairments caused by stroke, research still has yet to be conducted on humans. Even still, experts have clearly stated their position on this emerging field of medicine.

    “Evidence from animal models and in vitro studies suggests a global protective role for cannabinoid receptors agonists in ischemic stroke… both synthetic cannabinoids and endocannabinoids represent extremely promising therapeutic compounds.”

    Excerpt from Update on the Role of Cannabinoid Receptors after Ischemic Stroke (2012)

    Such promise has even led some doctors to recommend a daily dose of marijuana as an alternative to traditional anti-inflammatories like aspirin. According to former heart surgeon Dr. David Allen, positive evidence from animal studies provides enough support for patients to consider medical marijuana as an effective treatment regimen for their condition.

    Dr. David Allen’s interview with Fox News

    Today, researchers continue to call for further studies to be conducted, providing hope that medical marijuana’s potential as a treatment for stroke may be evaluated in humans at some point in the future.

    • Paul Gribbin

      Hi , I had a stroke 7 month ago iam 44yr , and smoke cannabis without tobacco, it has certainly helped with the spasticity and thus my balance and walking, no problems

      • TruthOnPotcom

        That’s great to hear! Goes to show that good medicine doesn’t need clinical trials to show that it can help people



      • Bill Smyth

        i’m 54 and had a stroke 2 yrs ago – we are both too young. It has def helped..

      • Ron

        I guess is depend on what type of marijuana you smoke. Considering that there has been research stating that marijuana link to increase the risk in stroke…

        • CannaBliss420

          If you look into those studies you’ll see that they aren’t scientifically sound. They prove that a high percentage of people who had a stroke tested positive for marijuana use on a urine test, meaning they had cannabis in their system at some time in the past month or so. The test does not prove that cannabis was present in their system at the time of the test nor at the time of the stroke and none of the data proves any relation at all between cannabis use and strokes. It does prove that a high percentage of people secretly enjoy marijuana! :)
          Scare tactics yo.

      • Simba Jahi

        Can we stay in touch

      • Terry Cooksey

        How are you doing now? How often and how much do you smoke? Do you think it is still helping?

    • Jessica Ebey

      My 30 year old husband had a massive stroke on 09/28/2013. He is walking but has little use of his left wrist and hand. He has asthma as well. Could cannibus help him at all? Either by vaporizing or oil?

    • stroke20

      MY dad had a stroke 7 years ago, he can walk ok but not great with a cane.

      He basically lost the use of the left side, but still has movement and pain.

      Has anyone tried this that has had a stroke for a longer span of time, than 2 years.

      my dad is 83 now but wants to be more self sufficient, and have less pain.


    • bill

      I had a stroke 11/21/2010 that left me paralized on my left side .I cant lift my arm above my shoulder, and I cant walk, I am also blind in the left side of my left eye,can this help

      • Steven Carrillo

        You never know until you try sir.

    • tj

      Ive heard about reversible cerebral vasoconstriction caused by cannabis?

    • tom

      I’ve been reading about thc causing vasoconstriction, could that be from the rats having no tolerance.

    • Stroke17

      Hi I’m 22 years old, I’ve had a stroke 3years ago a few days after I had my baby, I went outside to smoke some pot & when I get inside my room I couldn’t talk I was mumbling like I knew what I wanted to say in my head it just couldn’t come out of my mouth & I even forgot how to spell my name or anything !, it’s a scary experience !, I was in the hospital for 3 months after that I never touched pot again now today I feel great I get anxiety here and their about strokes cause I’m scared to have another, I still get mixed up in my words but hey time heals right ?!, and I also went half blind in my left eye, my vision isn’t all that good still but I learned to cope with it, I can see in full now but when a look at something in a row I can only see the first 2-3 in their was 4-6 items in a row

      • Terry Cooksey

        How much did you smoke?

    • tjbrown

      I had a stroke in December 2015 I’m 26 and I live in Oklahoma. My doctor said I need to stop using cannabis all together. I’m now taking prescription medicine 9pills a day every day and I am not myself on the meds which have their own side effects. My vision was nearly non existent after the stroke it has come back for the most part but I hate these pills. Now they want me to take cumidin?! A hard core blood thinner with extreme side effects and risks involved. I would like to move to a place where I can get effective natural treatment but I need to know it is possible. Does anybody have any links or information that may help me?