APR 18, 2024 4:10 AM PDT

Does Recreational Cannabis Use Help Prevent Cognitive Decline?

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A study published in Current Alzheimer Research found that recreational cannabis use is associated with a decreased likelihood of experiencing subjective cognitive decline. Memory loss and confusion are often critical signs of mental decline for middle-aged and older adults.

Researchers from the Norton College of Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University analyzed data from 4,744 participants with valid responses on subjective cognitive decline included in the 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The participants were mainly from Washington, D.C., and 14 states that included the BRFSS cognitive decline module in their survey. BRFSS is a cross-sectional survey that compiles information on chronic health conditions and health-related risk behaviors for American adults aged 45 and older. The researchers assessed how cognitive decline may result from different facets of cannabis use, such as frequency (0-30 days/month), reason (medical or non-medical use), and method (smoking, vaping, consuming edibles, etc.).

Participants who consumed recreational or non-medical cannabis reported decreased odds of experiencing cognitive decline compared to non-cannabis users. The researchers believe this finding indicates that recreational cannabis use might have a protective association against the self-perception of cognitive decline. This finding suggests that the reason behind cannabis use (medical vs. non-medical) may be more influential in its relationship with subjective cognitive health than the quantity of cannabis product use or a particular consumption method.

The use of multiple logistic regression models indicated an association between non-medical cannabis use and a 96% decrease in the odds of reporting cognitive decline. Study author Dr. Roger Wong explained the methodology used in studying this association: “We analyzed the U.S. CDC BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) data, which has been collected annually since 1984. We specifically only analyzed the 2021 data since it contained the three cannabis measures. Thus, although our findings may suggest cannabis may be beneficial for cognition, it is imperative for future research to examine the relationship between long-term cannabis use and cognition.” The researchers plan to investigate further the mechanisms involved in the association between non-medical cannabis use and reduced odds of cognitive decline, even though federal prohibition hinders a more thorough investigation.

Sources: Current Alzheimer Research, PsyPost


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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