Study: Long-term cannabis consumption does not cause cognitive differences in older adults

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Woman holding senior woman’s hand on bed

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A new study published in the journal Drug & Alcohol Review claims that older cannabis consumers demonstrate no obvious differences in cognitive performance; as opposed to non-consumers.

Based on the findings of an Israeli team of researchers, cannabis did not impact cognitive functioning in older adults. The study was carried out on a group of chronic pain sufferers who were, on average, 61 years of age. 

Of the consumers who partook in this study on cannabis’ cognitive effects, 63 were acknowledged as long-term medical cannabis consumers. Their results were compared against 62 non-using study subjects. 

“Considering the accumulating evidence showing efficacy of cannabis use for multiple health conditions common in older individuals, the lack of adverse effects on the brain in the current sample of individuals with chronic pain who were older than 50 years can contribute to a better risk–benefit assessment of MC treatment in this population,” said the Israeli authors of the study on cannabis’ cognitive effects.

Study on cannabis’ cognitive effects: Investigators found “no significant differences in cognitive function 

A number of cognitive tests were carried out on the two groups who participated in this recent study on cannabis’ cognitive effects. They involved assessing each study subject’s ability to absorb and retain new information, memory recall and reaction time, among various other performance measures.

Based on the researchers’ findings, no major cognitive differences were noticeable among the non-licensed and licensed individuals who suffered from neuropathic pain. The Israeli scientists stated that “evidence for lack of an association was stable and moderate.”

Furthermore, the patterns of medical cannabis consumption e.g. the length and frequency of use, the dosage, the cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) composition and duration of abstinence did not directly influence cognitive performance.

“Both MC licensed and non-licensed patients performed relatively similar to a standardized population with no chronic pain,” the researchers added.

Public attitudes to senior cannabis consumption are advancing 

As public attitudes and policies pertaining to cannabis consumption change, so too does the consumer demographic. New data published in JAMA Internal Medicine confirms that senior cannabis consumption is on the rise. According to the study’s findings, cannabis use among people aged 65 and over has been on the incline since 2006. Back then, just 0.5 percent of older adults claimed that they used the drug, whereas 4.2 percent said they’d used cannabis in 2018 — 75 percent more than the number of older cannabis consumers in 2015.

Moreover, among seniors, the green plant in its medicinal form is a fairly safe and effective method for enhancing quality of life and easing pain. This was proven in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. A separate study published in the September issue of the Canadian Geriatrics Journal discussed howlow-dose, short-term medical cannabis does not carry significant risk of serious mental health and cognitive adverse effects in older adults without prior psychiatric history.”

In Israel – which is considered to be the global epicenter of cannabis research – medical cannabis is already available on prescription. You can view an abstract of the Israeli study, “Medical cannabis and cognitive performance in middle to older adults treated for chronic pain” by clicking here.