By / September 21, 2023

Regular Cannabis Use by Young Adults Linked to Improved Cognitive Function

In studies focused on adolescents and young adults at risk of developing psychotic disorders, a recent study by three North American universities challenges the views of critics linking recreational cannabis use to the onset of psychosis. Researchers concluded that regular use of cannabis over two years does not lead to an earlier emergence of symptoms associated with mental illness.

Moreover, the study emphasizes that cannabis use is actually associated with an improvement in cognitive function and a decrease in medication use.

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Who Was Behind the Cannabis Use Study?

The study was conducted by experts from Zucker Hillside Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine, University of Michigan, and University of California in Davis. Their findings were published in Psychiatry Research.

The study highlighted that “recreational cannabis use has become a topic of great interest as a natural catalyst for the onset of psychosis. However, evidence on the negative effects of cannabis on those at high clinical risk (CHR) is inconclusive.”

Methodology and Study Results

To more accurately investigate this issue, the research team followed 210 participants aged 12 to 25 who were identified with CHR. All were enrolled in the Early Detection and Prevention Intervention Program for Psychosis (EDIPPP). For two years, detailed studies compared the mental well-being and prescription drug use between regular cannabis users and those who did not use it.

The results were surprising: “Continuous cannabis use for two years did not correlate with a higher frequency of transitioning into psychosis. It also did not worsen clinical symptoms, level of functioning, or overall cognitive functions.”

Observations On Cannabis Use and Implications

While the researchers admit that “regular cannabis use might be marginally associated with a slightly elevated, though statistically insignificant, level of mild positive symptoms compared to non-users.” They also point out that “individuals with CHR who maintained a consistent pattern of cannabis consumption showed improvements in neurocognition and social functioning along with a concurrent reduction in medication consumption. Importantly, despite the reduction in medication dosage, an improvement in clinical symptoms was noticeable.”

Study Context and Further Information

The goal of this study is not to promote cannabis use among young people or to propose cannabis as therapy for those susceptible to the development of psychotic problems. Its purpose is to contribute to scientific literature on the relationship between cannabis and psychosis, which is especially relevant in the context of opposition to cannabis legalization, often based on the belief that high-THC cannabis strains can cause diseases such as schizophrenia.

In a separate but significant study, the American Medical Association (AMA) published in January an analysis concerning over 63 million health insurance beneficiaries. It indicates that in states where cannabis was legalized, there was no “statistically significant increase” in psychosis-related diagnoses compared to states where cannabis is illegal.

In conclusion, the latest study provides valuable information regarding the potential effects of regular cannabis use in individuals at risk of developing psychotic disorders. The findings challenge prevailing assumptions and underscore the importance of further scientific research into the complex relationship between cannabis and mental health.

(Featured image by Maksim Goncharenok via Pexels)

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