Psilocybin and Cannabis for Protecting and Healing the Brain

Psilocybin and Cannabis for Protecting and Healing Athletes’ Brains

Last April, we published an article about using psilocybin for improving athletic performance.  In that article, we noted that Matt Barnes‘s pregame ritual in the NBA included using cannabis.  Similarly, NFL defensive lineman Shaun Smith reported that he uses cannabis to focus for games, explaining, “it’s like I’m in the zone.”

Other accounts, such as Dock Ellis’s no-hitter suggest that psychedelics (e.g., psilocybin, LSD, etc.) may provide some advantages for athletic performance.

Now the medical community is investigating benefits of these drugs that go beyond improving an athlete’s performance on the field.  Specifically, physicians are recognizing the benefits of psilocybin and/or cannabis for treating or preventing some of the detrimental effects of athletic competition– such as head trauma or concussions.

Psilocybin and/or Cannabis for Treating Concussions

Recently, some physicians, including Dr. Lester Grinspoon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School have asserted that natural substances like cannabis and “magic mushrooms” could provide benefits for treating and preventing brain injuries associated with head trauma, e.g., concussions.

As a neuroprotectant, cannabis is exceptionally effective in treating many of the lingering symptoms of a brain injury.  Cannabis is far more effective than conventional pharmaceuticals. In fact, there are no approved pharmaceutical drugs for concussions.

The data are so compelling on the use of cannabis for brain injury that Dr. Grinspoon urged the NFL to drop its urine testing program for cannabis so that players could seek its therapeutic effects.1

In addition to cannabis, psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) was approved by the FDA for clinical trials to help treat intractable depression 2, a dangerous and common symptom of traumatic brain injury. Psilocybin is recognized as one of the safest recreational drugs ever known. As a result, scientists at Johns Hopkins have recommended rescheduling it and increasing its availability.

A Future for Cannabis and Psychedelics?

In sum, two natural substances that were classified as having a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical benefit have now come to the forefront as the most promising and least harmful drugs available for some of the most intractable mental disorders known today.

Hopefully, our improved understanding of cannabis and psilocybin (particularly the cost-benefit analysis) will lead to improved access to safe and effective treatments for head trauma, such as concussions.

In the United States, the medical use of cannabis and/or psilocybin will likely require formulations comprising known amounts of known drugs because most physicians in the U.S. are unlikely to recommend that their patients consume unknown amounts of unknown molecules.  Accordingly, many physicians are unlikely to recommend that patients consume naturally occurring cannabis and/or “magic mushrooms” because of the inherent chemical variability in those naturally occurring organisms.


1. Grinspoon L. The NFL Should Combat Concussions with Cannabis. Motherboard. February 2014. Accessed December 17, 2018.

2. Gander K. FDA approves magic mushrooms depression drug trial. Newsweek. Published August 23, 2018. Accessed December 17, 2018.

7 thoughts on “Psilocybin and Cannabis for Protecting and Healing the Brain

  1. Mary iles Reply

    I have worked in head trauma as a speech pathologist.
    I would be interested in funding a study for
    Head trauma /psyillicybin.
    I’m also interested in funding a study for eating disorders.
    I have the means to make a difference
    Please contact me.
    Mary Iles

  2. Bobby Reply

    So good to hear this. I have a friend who had a motorcycle accident and has suffered traumatic brain injury. I started looking around for information regarding how psilocybin could facilitate reconnecting thoughts to muscle, because in my own experience, psilocybin has dramatically opened thought processes, shifting focus to areas that our brain has trained itself to shut out (like the humming of an air conditioner or electrical power line). I think that TBI causes the brain to close itself to these neural connections, and psilocybin could be the way to get back! Awesome!

    • Staff Scientist Post authorReply

      Thanks for the great comment, Bobby. This sounds in line with some recent work in neuroregeneration with psilocybin combined with other molecules.

  3. Jason Reply

    Hi my name’s Jason Walsh and I will most likely qualify as a victim of CTE. I’ve just recently been talking to my Doctors w how I can get involved w the research that’s being discussed here. Referencing the psilocybin study of interest of course; I smoked marijuana for a long time and it’s not of use any longer. I’m 31 yrs old and I think I would be an ideal candidate for study if anyone can help point me in the right direction, I’d love to get startEd on this path of discovery and finding the missing piece and giving me quality of life back. I’ve been meaning to contact Paul Stamets as he was the first to introduce me to the idea of micro-dosing. And funny thing, his mother was the first to introduce me to him and his work (not personally). I used to work for his mother and I lived on her huge estate while doing so, ergo it would seem like I’ve been pointed in this direction so far and it all feels like it’s meant to be. I haven’t reached out to Stamets yet because that’s more task worthy and I’ve only just started this journey. If anyone can help or give some guidance I’d be open to anything and would fully welcome and appreciate.

  4. Tyler Reply

    It’s very interesting to think that the thought of psilocybin and cannabis as an aid to head trauma. As someone who has had multiple concussions due to sports and physical activities(3 not very severe and 1 very severe), I know from personal experience that cannabis has helped with physical pain. Cannabis with and without THC has helped me with head pains and other physical pains but i wonder if the psilocybin would help with the prevention of brain deterioration due to head trauma. From some personal experience with micro-dosing with psilocybin and other psychedelics I feel as if it helps keep the brain alert and active when taking it. Me only being in my early 20’s I’m curious how the psilocybin would help with a persons brain that may have began to deteriorate from things like Alzheimer, dementia, and CTE whether it slows or even prevents further deterioration.

  5. Andrew Willix Reply

    Hello I have personally taken magic mushrooms micro -dosing for 8 months and my protocols is 4 days in 3 days off . And I also use cannabis through the day aswell 7 days a week. It all makes me a totally a better person. My entire family tells me so and I feel it. Please email me if you ever have a question I can help u with. [email protected]

  6. Amy Andrews Gray Reply

    Mary, I am not sure if you have made any progress, but I’m certainly an ideal case for this type of study. I just received news that my CSF has TAU levels higher than the lab range values. There is also atrophy in the occipital part of my brain. My history of multiple TBI sets the stage for what is likely CTE. My Dr is at the forefront of research and we talk about my case in regards to a study regularly. The caveat here is that I represent a large number of persons suffering the same issues. I would be glad to share more with you so that you may consider funding a study in this particular population. I am in touch with several authors of studies that I think would make record breaking discoveries…. If you want to know any more or feel led to contact me, please do. There’s a massive population of people who don’t fit into the hero category that are suffering…. they/we need help and the first step? Establishing proof of a problem. is my website but I’m no longer able to work.
    For Freedom…

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