By / April 19, 2024

Study Shows Cannabis Consumption May Protect Against Cognitive Decline

A recent study conducted by researchers at Upstate Medical University establishes a link between recreational cannabis use and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

According to the study, compared to non-users, non-medical cannabis consumption is significantly associated with a 96% reduction in the risks of subjective cognitive decline (SCD). Individuals suffering from SCD are at an increased risk of dementia, a condition for which there are currently no definitive prevention strategies.

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Study Findings

The study, led by MPH student Zhi Chen and Professor Roger Wong, examined three key aspects of cannabis consumption: type (medical or non-medical), frequency, and method (smoking, vaping, eating, or dabbing). These dimensions were scrutinized to understand their impact on the cognitive health of middle-aged and older adults.

Professor Wong emphasized the need for longitudinal studies to fully grasp the implications of non-medical cannabis use on cognition over time.

“The main finding is that cannabis could have a protective effect on our cognition,” said Professor Wong, “but it is really crucial to conduct longitudinal studies, as this is just a snapshot from 2021.”

The study’s results challenge conventional wisdom about cannabis consumption and cognitive health, particularly regarding the frequency and method of use. While previous studies involving younger populations suggested negative links between cannabis and brain health, the research from Upstate Medical University indicates age-related nuances in these relationships.

Despite the protective association observed with non-medical cannabis use, the study highlighted some limitations, such as the absence of state-specific cannabis regulations in the analysis. However, the use of a national dataset helps to better generalize the results.

Professor Wong noted that the protection gap between medical and non-medical use of cannabis could be attributed to the varying cannabinoid compositions in different types of cannabis. Medical cannabis generally contains more CBD and less THC than recreational variants.

Furthermore, the study suggests that the observed protective effects against cognitive decline might stem from cannabis properties that improve sleep and reduce stress. Non-medical users often turn to cannabis to alleviate their sleep issues and chronic stress, both of which are involved in cognitive decline.

The Role of CBD in Cognitive Health

Contrary to expectations, the study did not find substantial evidence supporting the idea that CBD significantly contributes to cognitive health benefits. Professor Wong suggests that the protective effects might be more closely related to other components of cannabis consumption.

Implications for Future Research

This research opens up new avenues for understanding the potential cognitive benefits of cannabis, especially in non-medical contexts. It underscores the importance of further investigations into how different cannabis components and consumption methods might influence cognitive health across various age groups.

(Featured image by Google DeepMind via Unsplash)

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