Football Concussions and the Brain-Saving Effects of Cannabis

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© intheskies – Fotolia.com

The prevalence of brain injuries associated with football are becoming increasingly clear. More than anyone suspected, banging heads together in football causes mild (and not so mild) traumatic brain injuries( mTBI). New findings and the plights of many former players may fundamentally change the game of American football, from the NFL all the way down through college and high school to Pop Warner. The latter kid’s league is suffers declining participation as parents fear damage to their children’s brains.

During the same time period that the the severity of brain-damaging injuries suffered by football players was becoming clear, research in Israel and Spain began to show that the human brain is protected from TBI by the cannabinoids in cannabis.

It may well turn out to be that the best on-field treatment of a suspected concussion will be taking “hits” of vaporized cannabinoids, right from medical cannabis. Even now, portable vaporizers can be ready to provide a controlled dosage of cannabinoids within a few seconds.

At the same time, new helmets with  accelerometers for measuring impact force and gyrometers for measuring twist will help in the immediate assessment of possible concussion after a violent tackle or block. Perhaps LED lights will read out G force readings right on the helmet’s surface, allowing fellow players, coach, and trainer to spot potential dangers.

Imagine this scenario in the not-too-far future: At a home game in Seattle or Denver or other state with medical marijuana exemption to tyrannical federal marijuana laws, the home team quarterback sets his squad on a crucial third down. Unfortunately for him, he was swallowed in a pass rush; worse yet when he was floored by a 300 pound left tackle, his helmet smashed into that of another tackler at a high rate of force. He lay stunned, not quite sure why to get up. Coach and team physician approach at a jog alarmed to see the red glow from the helmet LED declaring a probably concussion. As the physician reads the G force readings from the collision, she clicks on the portable vaporizer. She asks the player a few questions, at which he performs badly. He can state his name but is unsure of the date, even the year. This, along with the red light concussion warning and the dangerously high deceleration ‘G’ rating, convinces her to act immediately, bringing the vaporizer to the injured player’s lips and telling him, “breathe in this medicine.”

As the brain-traumatized player inhales cannabinoids into his lungs, they quickly make it to his heart and fountain up to his brain. Within seconds the cannabinoids THC, CBD and others cross the blood-brain-barrier in his brain and begin their neuroprotective functions. In the injured brain, neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate, are overproduced in a frenzy that damages neurons. Inflammatory processes produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), dangling electrons that wound cell walls and DNA. In this unlikely scenario, total time from traumatic brain injury, to diagnosis, to treatment molecules reaching the site of injury was perhaps one minute. This may also be a future protocol in case of stroke, another source of traumatic brain injury.

In the brain these cannabinoids dampen down the frenzied, brain-damaging transmitters. Cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, reduce production of the transmitter glutamate. Cannabinoids also serve as antioxidants to sop up the dangerous ROS oxidants. They calm the brain and reduce inflammation.

In moves it looks like the NFL might actually do, the league should end any restriction for players using cannabis. Not only is it good for their battered brains but also offers the safest medication for several types of pain, including neuropathic pain. There is actually more justification for making cannabis use by NFL players mandatory than there good reasons for its prohibition. Strict enforcement of rules penalizing wounding play actions such as ‘helmeting’ will also help.

Mr. President, tear down this law!

Tear down this law, Mr. President, in your State-of-the-Union address. President Barack Obama has a vast opportunity to do the right thing in his upcoming speech. With a decisive voice and one bold stroke of the executive pen, the president could deschedule cannabis from the tyrannical Controlled Substance Act. He could step beyond rescheduling marijuana, to actually descheduling this medical marvel. He could free forever this beneficent plant and the American people (along with billions of others planet-wide) from the parasitic clutches of the DEA and other drug war bureaucrats. He could right a thousand wrongs.

This action comes too late for the 20 million Americans arrested for cannabis over the long decades of the drug war. It comes too late that have gone blind from glaucoma, denied the sight-saving effects of marijuana. I comes too late for the centuries of wasted years spent by marijuana prisoners, jailed for no more reason that those in Stalin’s gulags. But still, bold action would save future Americans from these Inquisition-like punishments plus allow them the pain relief, anti-inflammation and other medical benefits of cannabis.

The benefits to President Obama for such a course of action would be huge. Historically, he would be remembered as a president who righted  huge historical wrongs, these millions of lives disadvantaged by a needless arrest, the ‘incarceration nation’ that jails more than any other and a militarized police enforcing immoral laws.  Politically, President Obama would gain immensely, finally removing a huge problem he suffers with those who voted for him, his hardline, dismissive policy on cannabis and medical cannabis freedom. Surely legalization must come up in an address concerning the state of the union, the union in which one state (and soon another) has legalized personal use and open store sale of marijuana, a union where nearly a score of states offer medical exemption to marijuana laws.

The Scheule I designation of cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical value is one the great lies of the American justice system. The sooner it is rescheduled, or better, descheduled totally, the sooner a great, historical evil begins to crumble. Do the right thing, Mr. President, tear down this law.!

Medical Cannabis Refugees

Americans in dire need of medical cannabis for themselves or their children are being forced to flee to states with humane laws providing access to their medicine. For many people and especially parents, access to medical marijuana is literally a matter of life and death.  marijuana and pillsMost US states still adhere to draconian laws regarding any possession of cannabis and afford medical users no protection. Parents face prosecution, even loss of possession of their children for trying to supply them natural compounds that can save their children’s lives from slow death by seizures, sometimes hundreds a day.

Ironically, the main compound sought by these parents is the CBD or cannabidiol. Unlike psychoactive cannabinoid THC, CBD provides no ‘high,’ the mental state seemingly so feared by nearly all researchers. Nevertheless, CBD is itself classified, as are all cannabinoids from marijuana, as a Schedule I drug, highly dangerous and without medical value. This for a compound with no psychoactivity, nor toxicity that may well turn out to be one of the most significant medicines ever discovered. This is your government on drugs.

Certainly to a growing group of parents and stricken children in states like Colorado, CBD is a momentous medical godsend. As reported by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in his documentary Weed, CBD strains of medical marijuana provide blessed relief from childhood seizures and developmental problems caused by Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), aka Dravet Syndrome. Where mixtures of powerful and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs of every type had failed to stop the seizures, and almost killed their small patients, CBD tinctures provided immediate relief.

Seeing such dramatic improvement for such a heart-breaking condition, parents of children with similar conditions across the country of course became excited about the possibility of providing their infants with relief. But because medical cannabis research has been blocked by the DEA and Schedule I status, these new high-CBD medicines are in short supply, available (and legal) pretty much only in Colorado.

The situation is leading to a medical cannabis refugee movement from states with harsh and cruel laws to states where voter’s have mandated legal exemption for medical use, like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California. The first two states on this list also now allow personal use of cannabis, again voted in by the citizens of Colorado and Washington.

An excellent series in the Salt Lake Tribune documents this process of “Families migrating to Colorado for a medical marijuana miracle.” The article’s author, Kirsten Stewart interviews physician Dr. Margaret Gebbe, who calls the results of CBD in treating these epilepsy disorders as “absolutely remarkable.” Dr. Gebbe is also interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta in his Weed documentary.

Sanjay Gupta reports on a similar movement on an international scale, with his story on a British citizen traveling to the Netherlands for access to his preferred pain treatment, cannabis sativa. He shows Gupta vial after vial of pharmaceutical narcotics he has been prescribed but were ineffective and with mind numbing side effects. Treatment with cannabis is unavailable in England, making this middle age man, bedeviled by pain cross the channel as another medical cannabis refugee.

American states and world countries that recognize the idiocy of cannabis prohibition and the powerful medical potential of cannabis will prosper while providing hugely needed relief and succor to these refugees.

Copyright © 2013 by Don Fitch

Memory Improvements from Exercise use Endocannabinoid System!

Hippocampus Word CLoud - © intheskies - Fotolia.com

Hippocampus Word Cloud – © intheskies – Fotolia.com

Exercise has been long known to be among the few things that can help memory. In physiological terms, “physical exercise has positive effects on cognitive functions and hippocampal plasticity.”  Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change from experience and is  closely related to learning and memory.  The hippocampus is a deep brain structure closely tied with memory, so hippocampal plasticity is a good thing, but brain scientist were not sure how exercise exerted these positive changes. A likely answer has been published by Brazilian researchers in the journal Hippocampus, and has to do with positive effects exercise has on the brain and memory stem from its simulation of the endocannabinoid system. The research paper is entitled “A role for the endocannabinoid system in exercise-induced spatial memory enhancement in mice.”

The endocannabinoid system is fairly recently discovered and major regulatory system in humans and other animals. The system was first discovered in relation to cannabis, as protein receptors on cell membranes turned out the be the target of marijuana and the reason for its medical and psychoactive effects. The CB1 receptor is activated by THC in cannabis and was the focus of study is this research. They conclude, “Our results suggest that, at least in part, the promnesic effect of the exercise is dependent of CB1 receptor activation and is mediated by BDNF.” Promnesic refers to memory promoting as is the opposite of amnesic. BDNF is brain-derived neurotropic factor, a secreted protein that helps support and grow brain cells.

 

 

Bad Day for Medical Liberty: US Supreme Court Denies Cannabis Rescheduling

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© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Depressingly, the first thing the US Supreme Court did on its first Monday was to deny reconsideration of cannabis scheduling.

By refusing to appeal a lower ruling, the court locks in Schedule I (highly dangerous, no medical value) by allowing the DEA to make that decision. Read the gory details at StopTheDrugWar.org. This come out on the same day that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia admits that he fully believes in the devil. His mindset would better fit Spain during the Inquisition than the USA in the 21st century. Yet we are stuck with his rulings.

There seems little chance now that the draconian Schedule I felonizing of cannabis will change, probably for decades to come. After all, it was just over 25 years that DEA law judge Francis L. Young told the truth about marijuana, including the fact that in no way should it be Schedule I. Yet a quarter century later, it still is. During these 25 years 20 million Americans have been unjustly arrested under these cruel laws.

With Schedule I intact,  the DEA and US Attorneys can continue to  jail Americans for decades along with seizing their property for the benefit of the agencies. States may legalize cannabis for medical or personal use all they want but as long as possession of any marijuana by anybody remains a stiff federal offense, the medical potential of cannabis will be blunted. The DEA and NIDA will still have control over research using cannabis, meaning they can continue to block nearly all medical marijuana research in the USA. This is probably the most cruel result.

It will also stifle and delay hemp production and use the USA.

For no good reason, tens of millions of Americans will have to continue to fear their government.

Who now is going to down-schedule or de-schedule  cannabis out of the hands of the DEA?

  • Certainly not the DEA itself. The felonization of cannabis is worth billions to the agency every year, no way they would consider changing it.

  • Barack Obama is highly unlikely to consider this desperately needed change; his presidency has been marked by increasing attacks on medical marijuana dispensaries and he has rejected any change of scheduling.

  • Even after 2016, it is unlikely the new president would make any change. Hillary Clinton has echoed Obama’s hard line. Joe Biden is one of the worst of the drug war criminals, enthusiastically creating the Drug Czar office and supporting harsh and authoritarian programs and policies his entire career. Although some libertarian republicans support ending drug prohibition and defunding the DEA, most republicans are staunch authoritarians who fully cheer and fund the war on drugs.

  • These leaves its to congress to change the scheduling.  Big hope there, huh?  Even if congress was not dysfunctional,  many congresspersons are former prosecutors, drug-war beneficiaries like Senator Jeff  “I love the DEA” Sessions, of the Judiciary Committee. Powerful house dinosaurs like Texas republican Arlen Smith headed off any reduction of federal persecution of medical cannabis in states where legal.

Future Americans will look back at us an wonder how we could have kept such dishonest and cruel laws so long.

Copyright © Don Fitch, 2013

 

 

Cannabinoids Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

It may be that small clumps of beta-amyloid protein begin causing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by destroying the synapses between brain cells well before they form the plaques that have been associated with this memory-eroding and personality-robbing disorder. New research out of Stanford University reported in Science Digest (Scientists Reveal How Beta-Amyloid May Cause Alzheimer’s) found that these small bits of beta-amyloid protein clump together and, as bunches, bind with receptors on neurons.  This displaces connections with other neurons, destroying the synapses between that, in very real ways, make us who we are. Too many synapses destroyed  and soon you can’t remember Uncle Bob. Or your spouse.

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Although in a way this is bad news–damage is taking place even before the plaque formation long thought to be the problem–the good news is that the finding may point to ways to help prevent the cruel disease with earlier intervention. Even better news is that a whole new class of preventive and therapeutic agents, cannabinoids, have been found to be very useful in curbing the ravages of Alzheimer”s disease. Cannabinoids are compounds that modulate specific receptors on brain cells, immune cells and other cells in the body. Three types of cannabinoids  exist: They can be produced by our bodies, by the plant cannabis, and synthetically in the laboratory. Last year Spanish researchers documented in the Journal of Neuroinflammation how cannabinoids are neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agents with therapeutic potential,

Their research, entitled Prolonged oral cannabinoid administration prevents neuroinflammation, lowers β-amyloid levels and improves cognitive performance in Tg APP 2576 mice. The Spaniards found that oral dosing with cannabinoids “ameliorates cognitive performance, decreases neuroinflammation and Aβ levels, likely by increasing its transport to the periphery.”  The cannabinoid treatment boosted memory and cognition, reduced brain inflammation and helped carry away the beta-amyloid tangles. What’s not to like! Yet again have cannabinoids been found to have powerful and beneficial medical effects, providing neuroprotection against one of the more cruel diseases to strike modern humans.

The Spanish research investigated synthetic cannabinoids, but earlier research found powerful AD preventive effects from THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Astoundingly, researchers found when “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.”  The enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) promotes beta-amyloid clumping; THC prevents this clumping by binding with receptors on AChE molecules. Some pharmaceutical drugs use the same tactic, but THC was far more effective! On another AD front, researchers in 2013 declared that deficiency in density of CB1 receptors, the receptors activated by THC to produce psychoactivity along with a host of preventive, curative and palliative effects, resulted in worsened AD symptoms.

Fear of losing their memory and personalities to cruel diseases like Alzheimer’s is the number one anxiety of those over 50 years of age. This group should be aware that cannabinoids, even THC, can provide protection for brain cells help stave off dementia-producing inflammation and beta-amyloid clumping.

Copyright © Don Fitch

Cannabinoid Receptors and Pain Relief with Acupuncture

Acupuncture has long been shown to relieve pain, but medical science lacked a mechanism to explain how it works. Now research out of Shanghai China reported in Evidence-Based Complementary and  Alternative Medicine finds that the cannabinoid system provides an answer.

The new research is entitled Electroacupuncture inhibition of hyperalgesia in rats with adjuvant arthritis: involvement of cannabinoid receptor 1 and dopamine receptor subtypes in striatum. The cannabinoid system is the regulatory system discovered and revealed over the past 25 years to play major roles in homeostasis and pain relief.  The cannabinoid receptor 1 mentioned is usually abbreviated CB1, and is the main receptor activated by cannabis (marijuana) and also by natural endocannabinoids produced by our bodies.

Based on their knowledge that dopamine D1/D2 receptors are involved in electroacupuncture analgesia, they conjectured that the  ” CB1 and dopamine systems sometimes interact and may operate synergistically in rat striatum.”  They found at the sites of two pain relieving acupuncture points “that the levels of CB1 expression in the repeated-EA group were much higher.”  They conclude, “these results suggested that the strong activation of the CB1 receptor after repeated EA resulted in the concomitant phenomenon of the upregulation of D1 and D2 levels of gene expression.” Activating these CB1 receptors turned on the D1/D2 receptor genes.

The authors conjectured, “One unproved but intriguing idea is that endocannabinoids may set the analgesic tone of the

© StockHouse - Fotolia.com

© StockHouse – Fotolia.com

body, with the level of their production acting as a kind of pain thermostat.” Again, the cannabinoid receptor system shows its huge importance in human physiology. Electroacupuncture and cannabis both activate the CB1 receptor and both result in pain relief.

So Sayeth Sanjay! On cannabis, “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years.”

Medical Marihuana

Medical Marihuana
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This writer called it a heart-breaker at the time in early 2009 when neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta said he “would vote no on pot.”  Dr. Gupta’s dismissal of medical marijuana was disappointing because, as I noted, he was “brilliant, telegenic, a neurosurgeon, had huge recognition and an is excellent communicator.” Now forward 4 1/2 years and Sanjay Gupta’s views have come around 180 degrees. Incredibly, he now says, “Well, I am here to apologize. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof.”

Sanjay now knows, after long investigation, that “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”  He pretty much calls out the DEA as the liars that they are.  One may question why such a brilliant man could have ever believed DEA lies, but the important thing now is that he knows better, and is communicating the truth.

He should have called his documentary Cannabis, rather than Weed,  the term preferred by cops. But for now, truth wins out as Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks out.  See it on CNN August 11, 2013.

Your Brain on CBD: Neurogenesis and Brain Growth!

Neurogenesis in hippocampus

© Sebastian Kaulitzki – Fotolia.com

We rightfully mourn the loss of brain cells, neurons, as we age. As they die we lose memories and capabilities – even our personalities. We are only as robust as our brains, composed mainly of neurons. Formerly, it was thought the as adults we already have all the brain cells we will ever have, and the path was only downward as we lose neurons to stress, alcohol and aging. Happily, this bleak picture was changed when neuroscientists discovered that, under certain conditions, even adult brains can grow new neurons, neurogenesis. New neurons refresh and rejuvenate, and lift mood.

The principal area where neurogenesis can take place is in the hippocampus, a dual area deep within the brain. Although small, hippocampal health appears important to memory and brain organization. It can be damaged. Excess alcohol and many drugs can cause it to lose neurons and shrink, resulting in fading memories and depression.

On the other hand, several conditions seem to spur brain growth. Physical exercise is one: rigorous physical activity spurs the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, most probably providing a rejuvenating effect and boosting memory. Physical activity is crucial in keeping old brains young. Your hippocampal health is one of dozens of great reasons to exercise every day of your life.

Certain anti-depressant drugs are also associated with neurogenesis.  Indeed, it is now thought that the depression relieving effects of SRIs- serotonin reuptake inhibitors – might have more to do with neurogenesis than increasing serotonin levels. Some now believe that the depression lifting effects of these drugs are due to new, young brain cells refreshing the hippocampus.

In 1995 it was reported that cannabinoids, too, can spur neurogenesis. Cannabinoids are molecules from three different sources: 1) Our body produces endocannabinoids that activate our endocannabinoid regulatory systems, pricipally anandamide and 2-AG. 2) Phytocannabinoids come from the plant Cannabis Sativa, AKA marijuana. THC is the best known and produces the psychoactive and some of the medicinal effects of cannabis.  3) Cannabinoids can also be synthesized in the lab.

A Canadian research group reported that Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. This research used a synthetic cannabinoid to activate the same CB1 receptors activated by the plant cannabinoid THC. They attributed the anxiety-relieving and depression-lifting effects of long-term treatment were “likely via promotion of hippocampal neurogenesis.”

Another new study has shown that the cannabinoid CBD from cannabis also promotes neurogenesis. Researchers from the Complutense University in Madrid, along with Brazilian researchers found that CBD relieved stress in mice and it did so by increasing neurogenesis in the hippocampus. They concluded, the “anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system.”

CBD, Cannabidiol is an exceedingly interesting molecule, brimming with beneficial health effects. It is one of over 60 cannabinoids produced by the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. Unlike the better known THC, CBD is not psychoactive, although it may modulate the effects of THC. Both cannabinoid molecules interact, in different ways, with our cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The medical potential of CBD has been inadequately studied because of the idiotic illegality of Cannabis Sativa. Even so, the known health effects are impressive: Like THC, CBD is an antioxidant with neuroprotective properties. Like THC, CBD is anti-inflammatory. It relieves pain.  CBD appears to have anti-tumor properties.

So on top of all these medical benefits, CBD may well contribute to neurogenesis, brain rejuvenation and growth! What’s not to like? Well, the DEA does not like these medical benefits and does not allow research on them because it likes the draconian Schedule I – no medical benefits – of cannabis to extend the lucrative war on drugs. This bureaucratic turf battle keeps the DEA in the dough but denies Americans the health-giving, even life-saving benefits of medical cannabis, even non-psychoactive CBD-dominant strains.

Americans should demand access to natural plant molecules such as CBD, along with THC, THCV and dozens of other medical cannabinoids. CBD and these other cannabinoids can help prevent many maladies, can treat dozens of diseases and can provide palliative comfort to the rest.  Along with refreshing and growing our very brains with neurogenesis. If Americans gain their medical freedom with a down-grading of cannabis from ridiculous Schedule I tyranny, the planet’s other six billion people would also gain greater access. Study of this remarkable  plant cannabinoid would blossom world-wide as anti-cannabis doctrine crumbles in the face of huge medical and health benefits.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

Fly your American grown hemp Star Spangled Banner this Fourth of July

usa flagThis Fourth of July fly your American grown hemp Star Spangled Banner. Oh, that’s  right, you can’t. Americans are prevented from growing hemp by their own DEA. You can get a hemp flag, maybe even one produced in the USA. But not from hemp grown here by American farmers; all this vital raw material must be imported. Chinese farmers and Canadian farmers grow hemp, some for lucrative export to the booming American market. The practice of growing hemp and using it for food, fiber and fabric is thousands of years old in China.

If an American farmer should plant 40 acres in this same industrial, non-psychoactive hemp crop as imported from China to provide to American manufacturers and food producers, he would be considered as the worst sort of criminal by the DEA and federal criminal code, subject to arrest, decades in prison and forfeiture of the family farm. Any production of over 100 plants puts the farmer in jeopardy of severe federal sanctions.

Your inability to buy an American flag made from American-grown hemp is hugely ironic in that the very first American flag was likely made of hemp, a major product in the colonies.The first Declaration was printed on hemp paper.

Now, this Fourth of July, a hemp flag made from newly legalized hemp from Colorado will fly over the capitol building in Washington D.C. Thanks to the intelligent efforts of Reps. Jared Polis D-Colorado, Blumenaur, D-Oregon and Massie, R-Kentucky several pieces of pro-hemp legislation recently put before congress. One right they sought was for universities to be able to study hemp in the states where it is now legal by state law. Such study of hemp for its potential as food, fuel, fiber and fabric are blocked by the DEA, which allows no research on hemp.