By / June 4, 2024

Consuming Cannabis in the Evening Does Not Impair Cognitive or Driving Abilities the Next Day

Recent research has explored the effects of consuming cannabis before bedtime, particularly its impact on cognitive abilities, driving performance, and general functioning during the following day.

A study conducted by researchers from several prestigious institutions, including Macquarie University and Johns Hopkins University, provides valuable insights on this topic. The study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, suggests that consuming cannabis before bedtime does not significantly impair cognitive functions or driving abilities the next day in adults with insomnia who rarely use cannabis.

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Key Findings of the Study Cannabis Impairment Study

The study involved 20 adults diagnosed with insomnia by a physician, all of whom were infrequent cannabis users. Participants received either a placebo or 2 milliliters of cannabis oil containing 10 milligrams of THC and 200 milligrams of CBD. The study aimed to understand the effects of cannabis on various performance measures the following day.

Cognitive and Psychomotor Functions: The study evaluated cognitive and psychomotor functions using a series of tests. These included tasks related to attention, working memory, and information processing speed. The results did not indicate significant differences between the placebo group and the THC-CBD group in 27 out of 28 tests. A minor reduction in accuracy percentage (about 1.4%) was observed in the Stroop color and word test, but it was deemed clinically insignificant. The results highlight that “almost all cognitive tests, involving attention, working memory, information processing speed, and other areas, showed no effects of THC/CBD the next day.”

Simulated Driving Performance: Driving performance was assessed using a fixed-base driving simulator 10 hours after cannabis administration. The study found no significant differences in driving performance between the THC-CBD group and the placebo group. This is consistent with previous research suggesting that “driving-related skills in occasional cannabis users recover within 8 hours after ingesting 20 mg of oral THC.”

Subjective Effects and Mood: Participants were also asked to report their subjective experiences, such as feeling “high,” “sedated,” “alert,” “anxious,” or “drowsy.” These effects were measured at several intervals: baseline, 30 minutes, 10 hours, 12 hours, 14 hours, 16 hours, and 18 hours after administration. The study did not reveal notable alterations in mood or subjective effects the next day.

One important point raised by the researchers is the comparison between the effects of cannabis and those of commonly prescribed sedative-hypnotics. Medications such as benzodiazepines and zopiclone are known to impair functioning the next day. The authors noted that cannabis, in this context, did not present such effects, making it a potentially safer alternative for those seeking sleep aids.

Considerations and Limitations

While the results are promising, the researchers acknowledged certain limitations. The study’s sample size was relatively small, and the results were based on a single dose of cannabis oil. This limits the ability to generalize the findings to a larger population and understand the effects of repeated dosing, which more accurately reflects how some individuals use medical cannabis for sleep.

The researchers hypothesized that repeated doses might lead to the development of partial tolerance to THC’s disruptive effects, potentially reducing the risk of next-day impairment. However, this aspect requires further study.

Broader Implications and Related Cannabis Studies

The results of this study are consistent with other recent research on cannabis and cognitive functions. A report published last December showed that prescribed medical cannabis had only minimal acute impact on the cognitive functions of patients with chronic illnesses.

Another study, published in March in the journal Current Alzheimer Research, suggests that cannabis use is associated with a lower risk of subjective cognitive decline, with users reporting less confusion and memory loss than non-users.

Additionally, a 2022 study on cannabis and laziness found no significant differences between weekly cannabis users and non-users regarding apathy or reward-based behaviors. These findings collectively suggest that cannabis use, particularly for medical purposes, may not have the negative cognitive and psychomotor effects often assumed.

(Featured image by Kindel Media via Pexels)

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