Cannabis Beats Placebo: CBD Promising for Treating Brain Damage in Preemies

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Earlier this year against the advice of many, I submitted an abstract to present at the International Cannabinoid Research Society’s 2014 Symposium. Not only was this Social Scientist selected from among over 300 other doctoral students, the remainder having the required Endocannabinoid Science experience I simply do not have, but I was one also of the few in attendance that had experience working with live human beings. I was thrilled!! And after some months of struggle I became the first Ph.D. student to crowdsource my way to this prestigious event to present “Integral Frames: Interdisciplinary Tools for Medical Cannabis Research.” It was quite a financial struggle even with the support but well worth the effort!

Although I made many connections to research projects that were presented and had many dynamic conversations with my fellow researchers, one particular study, “Role of 5HT1A Receptors on the Neuroprotective and Neurobehavioral Effects of Cannabidiol in Hypoxic-Ischemic Newborn Pigs,” (yes, it’s a laboring title, this was a clinical conference—you have no idea how hard some presentations were to follow for the non-scientist) found a way to open my eyes to the future of cannabinoid medicine in a way no other did—it made a personal connection to me and my own babies. Let me explain…

Just over 21 years ago my life was blessed with the birth of my twins, Timothy and Bryan. Born at only 25 weeks gestation, they weighed in at only 1 lb. 11 oz. and 1 lb. 12 oz. respectively. Their feet were smaller than my thumbs, their legs no bigger round than my index finger. They were tiny, and they were highly at risk for brain damage given their premature birth brought on by a kidney infection that sent me to the hospital a week before they were delivered.

The list of potential health problems was long: pulmonary and coronary problems, retinopathy, and more daunting long-term conditions than I could fathom as a young mother. Perhaps the most worrisome was brain damage…so many varieties and forms of potential brain damage that each week their little brains were viewed via ultrasound for possible bleeds. Each week I held my breath and prayed. My husband and I were among the lucky parents, especially given the odds with a twin birth. Neither of our sons faced a brain damaging bleed.

Since that time my children have all grown. Timothy and Bryan are the youngest of six and have become handsome, healthy young men. My three older daughters have all had children of their own, and between them they’ve had four premature babies, all but one also escaped the worst case-scenarios of premature birth. Shane has not fared as well and has spent much of his life in the hospital instead of at home with his family. Also, the pharmaceutical medications provided over the course of his young life (he’s only three years old) have left him pre-cancerous, pre-lupus, pre-rheumatoid arthritis, and underweight, to name only some of the pharmaceutical side-effects. Although we’re seeing children as medical cannabis patients it’s still not socially acceptable for parents to take the leap to cannabis medicine…yet what does the science tell us?

More than twenty-one years and many traumatic NICU visits since, I am where I never expected to be, in Baveno, Italy for the International Cannabinoid Research Society Symposium—when the lights come on, so to speak!

Let’s return to the study of those baby pigs. At one day old these piglets were robbed of oxygen to the brain to mimic hypoxic-ischemic conditions: the brain damage caused by the oxygen deprivation often brought on by severe apnea and/or cardiac stress events premature babies sometimes experience multiple times per day. Following verification of the induced brain damage the piglets were given Cannabidiol (CBD) oil—one group received one dose of CBD oil thirty minutes after the event and another group was given only three very, very small doses over the course of six days. Later these piggy’s brains were compared against those of normal, healthy piglets.

Here’s where it gets interesting: in looking at each of the eight regions of each piglet’s brain the researchers were “shocked and amazed” to report FULL RESTORATION and not just that but, “full restoration in each of the eight sections of the brain AND evidence of neuroprotection in all cells!” (Jimenez-Sanchez, L., ICRS).

As excited as Laura was to have found these amazing results, I was just as shocked to hear this good news! So excited I followed up with Laura after her presentation and during this conversation came to realize that when these piglets were dosed with CBD oil the amount given was considerably small! When I say small, I mean 1 mg of CBD oil per kg of weight. What does this mean?

Well to me it means my sons would have had similar neuroprotective results at less than 1 milligram of CBD oil. Less than 1 mg!!! (Note: There are 1000 mgs in each gram of cannabis oil). And my grandchildren would have as well with only a little higher dose, given that their weights were considerably more at birth than a kg). However, they would not have needed much more than a one milligram dose as the research team also found that “there were no differences between piglets receiving one dose or three doses of CBD.”

1 out of 8 babies born in the US each year is delivered prematurely and all are high risk for hypoxic-ischemic brain damage! Many are not as lucky as my sons and granddaughters were in surviving their premature birth with little long-term effect. Most are like my grandson, Shane; they struggle to survive, sometimes for the rest of their lives, because of the circumstances of their birth and the pharmaceutical manner in which many of their conditions are treated. These babies are our most vulnerable and at risk citizens, and they are our future.

Can any parent or grandparent sit idly by knowing there is a non-toxic, low-dose traditional medicine that is an option—a scientifically proven option—that’s being overlooked because so few medical professionals and policy makers consider the science of cannabinoid medicine? I can’t! Especially since I recognize that few of them have ever heard of the Endocannabinoid System (eCS) and its amazing ability to heal the body and protect, not harm, the brain.

Researchers have spent many decades looking for safe, non-toxic remedies for a wide-variety of illnesses and conditions. It has only been since 1988 that the eCS was discovered, so much science must still be explored. Fortunately, we’re beginning to see the stigma lift from this research arena. During the Symposium, I was pleased to note the large number of young women conducting cannabinoid research, many Ph.D.’s under the age of 30 from all over the world, including the good Ol’ USA.

Once word got out that I work with human beings, not mice, rats, piglets, or even cells—but real, live people, I became quite popular and was able to help connect what these young researchers do in lab with what patients are doing at home without the interference of NIDA or the pharmaceutical companies these researchers contend with on a daily basis—you know, those looking to mimic the way that cannabis beats placebo results with other, less effective and far more toxic synthetic substances and compounds than what cannabis sativa contains.

There were a number of other research stories in which cannabis beat a placebo that were touted with much amazement during this Symposium, with conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s Disease, PTS Disorders, Neuropathy, Substance Abuse and Seizure Disorders, to Memory Improvement, Psychiatric Conditions, and so much more! Pharmaceutical researchers aren’t really used to these kinds of results; typically they just hope not to kill the patient too quickly, even if it is a laboratory mouse. (BTW: No cancer treatment currently marketed beats placebo in clinical trials, but cannabis does!). When you consider that we humans all have an eCS system which reacts favorably to the phytocannabinoids from this amazing plant, it’s somehow common sense that cannabis beats placebos in trials—at least to me, as a patient, social researcher, and more adept scientist than I previously recognized.

But now this grandma is also really angry! When I first started exploring cannabis it was about my own health issues, and I just figured we didn’t know what we didn’t know yet. But now, this has affected my babies and my babies’ babies (and so many, many family’s babies)! It’s time for the science to reach the masses so that we can understand we have a safe choice and options beyond hazardous treatments.

The science required to remove cannabis from the Schedule of Controlled Substances has been conducted and is far more than adequate, yet every citizen with an eCS (100%) and every citizen who supports the medicalization of cannabis (87%) wait for our government to take action. People from all over the country have come to Colorado as medical cannabis refugees seeking treatment for their child, themselves, or someone else they love dearly. Yet there is not nearly enough cannabis oil, especially Cannabidiol rich oil to meet the current demand—and demand is growing far quicker than supply as citizens educate themselves by reading research studies just like this one! Still, one small gram of CBD oil could potentially treat up to 1000 babies (1000 babies born under 2.2 lbs., unfortunately far too common these days) and “induce neuroprotection” that is so desperately necessary for these high-risk infants!

In my opinion, the educational chasm between endocannabinoid researchers and family physicians is greater than the gap between patient and doctor or even patient and researcher. Patients are self-educated and rely heavily on other patients for information, plus they embody a specific type of knowledge regarding the use of cannabis, one that still fails to reach researchers, medical professionals, policymakers, or the masses to a significant degree.

This seems to be where I fit in. With the Cannabis Patient Network Institute and Integral Education and Consulting, LLCmy primary goal is to bridge these communication gaps, to help patients share their stories, to engage patients in community-based research projects, and to spread cannabis education like wildfire through a network of trainers.

The birth—and possible death—of a premature baby has impacted nearly all of us in some way. Please share this information with others who can benefit from knowing. It’s an easy way to be a leader in cannabis education! And, if you have the time send NIDA a Thank You note for sponsoring the ICRS 2014 Symposium and encourage them to continue acts that support the common good like this—it’s so rare that a government agency does! And to all those who helped me raise the funds to attend this conference, I thank you from the bottom of my heart—this is but one “aha” moment I had during those 5 days in Baveno. I look forward to sharing more insights with you soon!

Photo Credit: Brian Hall under public domain via Wikimedia Commons