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Could CBD and Psilocybin Treat Brain Injuries? This University Plans to Find Out
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The University of Miami received a $1.64 million grant to investigate whether combining CBD and psilocybin could control, or even prevent, some of the worst symptoms of PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Published on February 24, 2020

The University of Miami will begin studying if CBD and psilocybin combined can treat traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, two medical conditions for which there are currently no cures.

The university received a $1.64 million grant from Tassili Life Sciences to see if CBD, a non-intoxicating compound derived from cannabis, taken along with psilocybin, a psychedelic compound found in “magic mushrooms,” could reduce, or even prevent, the symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

“Mild traumatic brain injury, especially concussion, is an important cause of morbidity in the United States and in the world today,” Dr. Michael E. Hoffer, MD, a professor of otolaryngology and neurological surgery, as well as one of the study’s authors, said in a press release

According to the CDC, roughly 2.87 million Americans were either diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) during ER visits, were hospitalized for the condition, or died from it in 2014. TBI’s symptoms usually include dizziness, memory loss, migraines, and uncontrollable mood swings. The injury often leads to PTSD, too, which brings additional complications such as social isolation, paranoia, substance abuse, an increased risk of suicide, and difficulty maintaining close relationships with others.

Currently, there are no cures for either TBI or PTSD. Conventional treatments include psychotherapy and pharmaceutical medications that can control individual symptoms, but those medications often come with dangerous side effects. The two conditions are frequently seen in US combat veterans, though professional athletes, drivers, and abuse survivors often develop the two comorbidly, too.

“With this new grant with Tassili, we have the opportunity to explore a combination therapy that might treat the traumatic brain injury as well as the PTSD,” Dr. Hoffer added. Traumatic brain injury is associated with neurodegeneration — when the brain and nerve cells begin dying off and don’t regrow — and there is evidence that cannabis and psilocybin could restore brain cells and enhance connectivity among brain regions, respectively. One recent study showed that psilocybin could bring people out of comas and kickstart an otherwise vegetative brain.

Dr. Hoffer and his research group were ideal for conducting this study. He’s been investigating CBD as a potential treatment for TBI for several years, and this new study will be one of the first to see what happens when CBD is combined with psilocybin in one convenient pill. Tassili, a biotech company based in Toronto, Canada, has coordinated with other universities to investigate the medical potential of CBD and psilocybin for not only TBI and PTSD, but obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), as well.

The University of Miami now joins Johns Hopkins Medical School and Yale University as an institution of higher learning that is researching the medicinal applications of psychedelic drugs, which are currently outlawed for recreational use in the US. Psilocybin, however, was recently decriminalized in Denver, Colorado. Two California cities, Oakland and Santa Cruz, have passed city ordinances that tolerate personal use, possession, and cultivation of psychedelic mushrooms.

If you live near Miami and you’re wondering how you can participate in the study, you’ll need to wait several months. The initial nine to 12 months of the study will only involve animal subjects; testing for human participants will occur afterward. Until then, check out the MAPS website for more information on how to participate in psychedelics-based medical research.

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Randy Robinson
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Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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