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Chemicals in Marijuana May Help Stroke Victims


July-August 1998

Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) said a chemical in marijuana may protect the brain from damage inflicted by a stroke. Their study was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Aidan Hampson, et al., "Cannabidiol and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol Are Neuroprotective Antioxidants," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 7, 1998, Vol. 95, Issue 14, p. 8268; "Pot Chemicals Might Inhibit Breast Tumors, Stroke Damage," Dallas Morning News, July 13, 1998; Vanessa Thorpe, "Chemicals Help Brain Damage After Stroke," The Independent (UK), July 19, 1998).

NIMH scientists researched the effects of two cannabinoids, cannabidiol and THC, on the brains of rats. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that causes a psychoactive effect. However, cannabidiol is "a better candidate," in part, because it does not cause a "high" in the patient, said Aidan Hampson, a neuropharmacologist at NIMH who led the study.

The cannabinoids block a neurochemical, known as glutamate, that leads to the formation of toxic oxidizing molecules that kill brain cells. Glutamate is produced in the brain if the oxygen supply is cut off, for example, as the result of blood clot leading to a stroke. Researchers found that cannabidiol is a more effective antioxidant than vitamins A and E, which already are known to block the damaging effects of glutamate.

Dr. Aidan Hampson, NIMH - Tel: (301) 496-8755, Please e-mail questions to: <>. A copy of the study is located at <>.