Medical Marijuana May *Improve* Cognitive Abilities

Medical marijuana and cognitive functioning
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A pilot study assessing the impact of medicinal cannabis on executive function has returned some encouraging results.

The study, led by McLean Hospital’s Staci Gruber, PhD, indicates not only that medical marijuana may not impair executive functioning in adults, but may actually improve it.

The study, still under way, assessed the impact of 3 months of medical marijuana (MMJ) treatment. Of the 24 patients certified for MMJ use who completed baseline executive function assessments, 11 have returned so far for their first follow-up visit.

“After three months of medical marijuana treatment, patients actually performed better, in terms of their ability to perform certain cognitive tasks, specifically those mediated by the frontal cortex,” said Dr. Gruber.

Other benefits observed were patients reporting some improvements on measures of clinical state and general health. There was also a quite astounding decrease in conventional pharmaceutical usage, particularly opiates, which reduced by 42% between the baseline and the follow up.

MMJ’s potential in battling opioid abuse has been documented in a number of studies now; most recently in September. Previous research included a publication in June stating opioid abuse is less prevalent in states with medical marijuana laws.

An earlier University of Michigan study found chronic pain patients using medical cannabis experienced a significant decrease in their use of prescription opioid-based medications.

The McLean Hospital study is by no means over and will closely examine factors relating to the age of the patients enrolled and the chemical composition of the cannabis used; in part to try and determine what impacts the cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have in terms of the outcomes.

“As a clinical researcher, I’m not interested in exploring only the good or the bad, I’m only interested in the truth,” said Dr. Gruber. “That’s what our patients and our recreational users have a right to know and a right to expect from us. People are going to use it. It’s up to us to figure out the very best and safest ways in which they can do that.”

The participating patients’ cognitive performance will be gauged after 3, 6, and 12 months of treatment and compared to baseline.

The pilot study initial findings were recently published in the journal Frontiers of Pharmacology.