Exploring the Cognitive Effects of Prescribed Medical Cannabis: Findings from an Australian Study
Critics of cannabis often make the sweeping assertion that 'cannabis negatively impacts the brain,' yet these claims lack the necessary context, undermining the gravity of the discussion.
Indeed, cannabis can influence brain function, but the extent and nature of its effects vary based on numerous factors. Hence, two individuals might use cannabis in the same way, with the same dose, and under similar conditions but still experience different outcomes.
Not every instance of cannabis consumption leads to altered brain functionality. A recent Australian study focused on cannabis use and neurocognitive performance sheds light on this topic. The following details from a NORML news release provide more insight:
In Melbourne, Australia, a study published in CNS Drugs found that medical cannabis use does not lead to significant changes in cognitive performance or driving capabilities in patients.
The study involved 40 patients authorized to use medical cannabis, who were evaluated for neurocognitive performance initially and then again after three hours. Patients either used vaporized cannabis or oral cannabis extracts. These participants had been using medical cannabis for at least ten months before the study.
The findings showed no significant changes in tests of psychomotor skills, executive function, memory, or reaction time after patients took a "standard dose of their prescribed medical cannabis." This held true regardless of the cannabis product used.
The researchers noted, "Our results did not show impaired cognitive function when comparing before and after treatment scores on a comprehensive set of neuropsychological tests, nor any change in the DRUID [psychomotor] test scores over time. … These results align with two systematic reviews from the past year indicating that regular and consistent use of medical cannabis for chronic conditions might not significantly affect cognitive functions."
They concluded that "Medical cannabis seems to have a negligible acute effect on cognitive functions when used as prescribed."
Other research has found that regular cannabis users may develop a tolerance to its effects on cognitive and psychomotor functions. A 2018 analysis of 36 studies with over 1,000 subjects found, "The impact of acute marijuana or Δ9-THC use is less pronounced in regular users than in occasional users. Tolerance seems most likely to develop in cognitive functions, with some instances showing a complete absence of acute effects."
A review in the journal of the German Medical Association stated, "Patients using cannabinoids consistently over a long period often become tolerant to the impairment of psychomotor functions, enabling them to drive safely."
The full study, "A semi-naturalistic, open-label trial examining the effect of prescribed medical cannabis on neurocognitive performance," is published in CNS Drugs. More information can be found in the NORML Fact Sheet, 'Marijuana and Psychomotor Performance.'
Source: International CBC