UCLA Researchers Found Something Surprising About Pot Smokers' Brains

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

There seems to be a new benefit to smoking weed, and it's one you probably weren't expecting.

A new study from researchers at UCLA found that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is associated with a higher survival rate after traumatic brain injuries. While previous studies had used animals, this was the first to show the connection in humans.

How it works: The study looked at 446 participants who were victims of a traumatic brain injury. Certain people were excluded, including anyone under 15 and anyone whose injury was not deemed survivable.

For legal reasons, the researchers couldn't just give some of the participants marijuana and watch what would happen. Therefore, they had to use a survey to see who was a marijuana user.

The results were striking: 97.6% of patients who reported using marijuana survived their surgeries, compared to 88.5% of nonusers. As Colorado's 9 News reports, THC can stay in your system for up to a month. You don't necessarily need to be high at the time of injury to reap the apparent benefits.

Moving forward: What exactly those benefits are, though, remains a mystery. One thing that would help figure that out? Loosening restrictions on using marijuana for research.

"There are medical benefits to marijuana that aren't as robustly studied," study author Brian Nguyen told L.A. Weekly. "Further research needs to be done on this controversial compound."

Chalk it up to one more reason to legalize the drug, which is currently allowed for medical purposes in 23 states and legal for recreational use in just two, Colorado and Washington. That number could expand after this year's elections, though, meaning it may not be much longer before researchers like Nguyen can conduct more thorough experiments.

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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