There’s a lot of back and forth in the discussions as to whether cannabis can harm or hurt brain function, causing a bit of confusion in the cannabis community and beyond.
It’s time to set the record straight by examining some of the varying perspectives that have emerged in terms of what happens to the human brain on cannabis and what’s possible in the treatment of certain brain conditions.
A Look at Cognition
Cognition refers to your brain’s ability to think and perform mental tasks. It’s been a long-time myth that cannabis destroys cognition, which is why people are sometimes held to the untrue stigma of the burned-out stoner. This image couldn’t be further from the truth.
A recent study conducted at McLean Hospital at Harvard University examined the long-term effects of continuous cannabis use on people’s cognitive function over a period of 3 months. It was observed that there was a significant improvement of cognitive function over time through a serious of mental tests and “brain teasers” with the continual use of medical marijuana in controlled quantities.
The reason? Anxiety reduction. It’s been shown that one of the biggest interrupters of effective cognition is the emotions and experiences felt by an individual having anxiety, especially in high-stress, mentally-demanding situations. When cannabidiol is introduced into the system, it provides anti-anxiety properties, resulting in increased cognition and concentration.
The authors of the Harvard Study note in their literature review that there is a growing body of scientific literature supporting the role of cannabis to improve psychomotor speed, attention, memory, executive functioning and verbal learning. This is promising information.
The Hope of Cannabis for Brain Disorders & Related Diseases
The news around cannabis’ potential for improvement in cognitive function has a number of pockets within the medical communities a-buzz. An excitement is growing around the potentials for cannabis as a treatment for some of the most complicated and most misunderstood brain disorders and conditions.
Here are just a few of the emerging discourses that are signifying cannabis’ important place in understanding and treating brain disorders:
Alzheimer’s DiseaseAlzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is becoming an increasingly large part of our societies, with instances of the disease expected to triple over the next 50 years with the aging Baby Boomer Generation. Scientists are reviewing the evidence that THC contained in cannabis can be an inhibitor of the toxin in the brain responsible for the disease. CBD-rich strains are also valued for their neuroprotective properties of the brain, that also help inhibit the release of the toxin responsible for the disease (beta-amyloid peptide).
Recognizing the complicated medical, emotional and mental side effects that can come from a brain injury caused by accidents, lack of oxygen, seizures or toxic drugs (i.e. chemotherapy), cannabis (specifically THC) is being regarded for its neuroprotective properties and ability to prevent long-term damage caused by trauma to the brain. The THC is believed to help trigger the brain and build resistance, resulting in the brain working to protect itself.
People with severe brain disorders like Schizophrenia are usually treated with anti-psychotic drugs that focus on behaviors and do little to help cognitive function. Scientists are now finding hope in CBD for treating the cognitive challenges of the disorder, after observing 88 patients with Schizophrenia. A control group was given a placebo, where the experimental group was administered CBD. There was a significant improvement in the experimental group’s cognitive functioning when exposed to CBD.
Autism & Spectrum Disorders
As we’ve highlighted before, a growing group of mothers is emerging in support of the ways cannabis is helping to provide their children with autism a better childhood. Instead of turning to powerful anti-psychotic drugs to treat behaviors associated with children on the autism spectrum, cannabis is becoming a promising alternative path. The power lies within the endocannabinoid system and the way that CBD can help improve motor function and provide neuroprotective and neuro-regenerative properties within the brain. This is manifesting in greater communication skills for children with autism.
So, Does Cannabis Improve Brain Function?
The quick answer is yes: cannabis helps to improve brain function as evidenced by the emerging research and advocacy for cannabis therapies for people with brain conditions.
At the same time, it should be recognized that cannabis can have an effect on the developing brain, and for some, can cause complications if abused, rather than responsibly used. The key is using cannabis in an educated and empowered way with a mind to treat needs with the correct strains, doses, methods of consumption and contexts for use.