The way our brains work changes as we age. However, there is now increasing evidence to support that cannabis positively alters brain functions that typically decline as we get older.
One study found that adults over 60 who used cannabis at least once a week had stronger communications between three regions in their brain. These areas, which are the hippocampus, the parahippocampal gyrus, and the cerebellum, showed improvements that resembled brain function in much younger adults. The findings, according to researchers, suggest that cannabis may protect the brain against age-related decline.
The research supports other similar studies: One of the most promising indicated when rodents were given small amounts of cannabis, they experienced improvements in age-related cognitive decline and brain changes.
While most cannabis users over 60 report relieving chronic pain as their most common reason for turning to cannabis, combating cognitive decline may be the biggest benefit these users gain from using the plant.
That said, older consumers should be aware of the potential risks involved with regular to frequent cannabis use. If older users have preexisting brain impairment, they may amplify it by consuming cannabis. Older users may also experience pulmonary and/or cardiovascular issues, particularly if they smoke or vape cannabis. Other potential side effects for older users include changes in mood and cognition, psychosis, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and blurred vision.
Furthermore, not much is known as to why cannabis appears to improve aging brain health. Research is preliminary, but scientists believe that it has something to do with the neuroprotective properties in some of the hundreds of cannabinoids in the plant.
While more controlled studies need to be performed to understand or draw any conclusions as to how cannabis positively affects the aging process, the preliminary findings are very promising.
Sources: Frontiers, PBS, Psychology Today, Psychiatric Times, Aging Research Reviews