Medical marijuana is legal in more than half of the United States, with some states still undecided about it. Currently, California allows patients full access to medical cannabis products. The need for clinical study has never been more important than now, and as findings emerge, the full extent of the prohibition lie becomes evident. We look at just one in this article: Using marijuana for brain health.
Medical Marijuana and Brain Function
Cannabis clearly affects the brain. Although enjoyed by most, the high felt ranges in severity. Some weed strains improve mental focus; others do not. However, it is the long-term impact of cognitive ability interesting the scientific community today. To date, there have been few investigations into the effect of cannabis on brain performance, despite a widespread belief of dysfunction and impairment.
Real Effects of Marijuana on Brain Performance
Harvard University recently conducted its own study into the matter. According to Frontiers in Pharmacology, the study analyzed a three-month impact of medical cannabis on executive performance. Specifically, the team was exploring whether patients would experience cognitive improvement and if there was any relation to the alleviation of primary symptoms.
Using 24 certified medical marijuana patients, the team began measuring executive functioning through Trail Making and Stroop Color Word testing. Most completed tasks much faster, without losing any accuracy, after cannabis treatment. Patients themselves report clinical improvements, such as reduced impulsivity and depression, decreased opioid reliance, as well as positive life quality changes.
Medical Marijuana and the Brain
A bevy of evidence exists to indicate that using marijuana recreationally can have an adverse effect on the brain, especially during adolescence and other stages of neurodevelopment. Various research suggests deficits across most executive functions, including speed processing, verbal memory and attention. It also measured lower IQ scores among teenage users, despite questions to these findings.
Medical use, however, may not cause the same neurocognitive effects. Recreational cannabis is typically high in THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Medical marijuana focuses more on the cannabinoids, which do not have any psychological effects. Furthermore, patients use it to alleviate symptoms instead of getting high, which means there are vast differences between the two.
Methods and Materials Used to Investigate Marijuana for Brain Health
The Harvard study analyzed 24 certified cannabis patients. They all had Medical Marijuana Cards, and in order to qualify as participants, they had to either be first-time weed users or completely abstinent for more than a decade. This was to ensure no other factors could possibly influence results. There was no indication requirement, which means that they were treating various medical conditions.
Before starting cannabis treatment, participants completed an array of cognitive tests and general health assessments, such as life quality, sleep patterns, and clinical states. They also went for magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, for neural images of their brains. After three months of appropriate cannabis treatment, they returned for another visit to repeat all tests and measurements.
Furthermore, there were frequent telephonic queries to assess magnitude, frequency, and type of cannabis use according to a specific procedural timeline. During these calls, researchers collected information about type of cannabis products and strains used, as well as method of consumption, such as smoking, vaporizing, or eating, along with how much and how often participants were using it.
Patients provided samples of the strains they were using, and the team sent them for laboratory testing to discover more about them, including cannabinoids present, terpene profiles, THC levels, and other factors. This information is important for future investigations too, as it will allow researchers to measure the impact of these ratios on clinical and cognitive outcomes.
Harvard Study Results
This study’s findings indicate that marijuana actually helps cognitive function and enhances brain development. Participants scored higher on their executive tests after three months of cannabis treatment. Enhanced performance, particularly from the frontal cortex of the brain and the ability to perform related tasks, was but one discovery. Patients were happier, healthier, and sleeping better.
More importantly, all study participants reported less reliance on conventional drugs, most notably opiates. This has particularly exciting potential to fight against opioid addiction and prescription drugs. In fact, the study noted a 42 percent decrease in prescription drug use after initiating cannabis treatment. This finding alone warrants considerable future research.
More study is necessary to determine exactly how much cannabis benefits our health. It works miracles on all bodily systems, including the brain. While most Indica strains and some Sativa ones may cause temporary mental fogginess, this study proves that they improve cognitive function over the long-term. Science daily debunks the age-old myth that cannabis is dangerous and bad for body and mind.