Every year, almost a million people in the USA, 75% of whom are aged over 65, will suffer from a stroke, losing brain function due to a blockage in its blood supply. It has been estimated that around 15 million people around the world experience this condition, and of those who are unlucky enough to have a stroke, around 18% lose their lives.
The main causes of having a stroke include atherosclerosis, hypertension, a weakened heart and the natural effects of ageing. For people who survive, there are many symptoms which can have a major impact on their lives, including problems with speaking, or even loss of all speech, impairments in memory and recall, problems with movement, difficulty writing and sometimes, even complete personality changes.
What Are The Types Of Stroke?
There are 3 main kinds of stroke, however, regardless of its type, a stroke results from a blockage which prevents the flow of blood to the brain, in turn causing injuries which affect motor skills and brain function.
- Ischemic – an ischemic stroke occurs as a result of a clot or blockage in one of the blood vessels which lead to the brain. They account for 87% of strokes.
- Hemorrhagic – this type of stroke is triggered by a rupture in a blood vessel and includes AVMs (arteriovenous malformations) and aneurysms. Hypertension is this type of stroke’s most common cause.
- Transient Ischemic – similar to an ischemic stroke, this kind of stroke is as the result of a temporary clot in the blood vessels. Sometimes known as a mini stroke, it should be taken as a warning to make lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure.
How Can Cannabis Help?
Although there have been limited numbers of studies carried out into the effect of cannabinoids on stroke victims, the small amount of information that is currently in existence has shown a lot of promise for sufferers. A 1998 study showed that both THC and CBD can possibly protect the sufferer’s brain from the damage that is caused by a stroke. The same study showed that cannabinoids are able to block glutamate, a neurochemical that causes the oxidizing molecules which kill cells in the brain to accumulate. If the brain lacks oxygen, glutamate begins to be produced, and this is the case when a patient suffers from an arterial hemorrhage or blood clot. Cannabinoids have been shown to be even more effective as an antioxidant than vitamins E or A, both of which are widely known to be able to block the damage caused by glutamate.
Can Cannabinoids Reduce Injuries In The Brain?
A more recent study from 2012 showed that after having a stroke, the amount of cannabinoid receptors in the sufferer’s brain increased. In this study, a synthetic cannabinoid from a black tuna strain which acted on the CB2 receptors was administered, and the findings showed that neurological impairments together with overall damage to the brain were subsequently reduced as a result. This synthetic cannabinoid was administered within 10 minutes after suffering the stroke, however, a further study revealed that cannabinoids were still effective even when given up to 3 hours later. Analysis of this and many more studies concluded that, although administering cannabinoids could not prevent the stroke from causing death, it could reduce the amount of brain which was damaged, helping to maintain cognitive function or even to restore it. This offers more proof that cannabis can be a neuroprotectant, possibly even stimulating brain cell growth in areas where disease or damage has occurred.
Atherosclerosis And Cannabis
Atherosclerosis is a condition where the wall of the artery thickens with a fatty plaque. This will eventually block the blood flow leading to a blockage which could cause heart disease and strokes. Cannabis can effectively treat this condition, preventing a stroke from happening. A 2005 study showed that even low quantities of THC can decrease a stroke’s severity when it acts on the immune system’s CB2 receptors. In fact, a government patent which was issued in 2003 showed that administering cannabinoids before a stroke occurs can reduce its severity by up to 50%, while no chemical has been found that can decrease the size of a stroke even by 2%. With strokes having such a severe long term impact upon sufferer’s lives, it seems that using marijuana as a treatment to decrease their intensity could be a vital step to preserving motor skills as well as neurological and cognitive function in patients who are at risk. It is no wonder, then, that some doctors are now prescribing marijuana to their patients rather than aspirin to reduce the chance of experiencing a blockage. It appears that a bud a day really can keep a stroke away.