There is a correlation between non-medical cannabis use and a lower cognitive decline risk

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — In a surprising new study, researchers have found that non-medical cannabis use is associated with a significantly lower risk of subjective cognitive decline (SCD) in adults 45 and older.
While medical marijuana use and using cannabis for both medical and non-medical reasons were also associated with reduced SCD risk, these relationships weren’t statistically significant.
If non-medical cannabis use helped improve sleep and lower stress, this could potentially contribute to better cognitive outcomes over time.
“We do not know if non-medical cannabis leads to better cognition or the other way around if those with better cognition are more likely to use non-medical cannabis.
We need longitudinal studies to see long term if non-medical cannabis use is protecting our cognition over time.
Still, this study adds an intriguing new dimension to the conversation around cannabis and cognition in older adults.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that older adults should start sparking up joints in hopes of staving off dementia.
While the jury is still out on cannabis’ cognitive effects, these tried-and-true habits are a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy aging – both in body and mind.

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YRACUSE, N. You Y. In a startling new study, researchers discovered that among adults 45 and older, non-medical cannabis use is significantly associated with a lower risk of subjective cognitive decline (SCD). When someone reports experiencing worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss, it is referred to as SCD. It’s frequently a precursor to dementia and cognitive impairment that is about to happen.

Current Alzheimer Research published the study, which was carried out by researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Professor Roger Wong and Zhi Chen, assistant professors in the school’s department of public health and preventive medicine, used information from the 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a nationwide U.S. S. health survey. Over 4,700 middle-aged and older adults were studied to determine the prevalence of subjective cognitive decline and the relationship between different aspects of cannabis use, such as reasons for use, frequency, and methods of consumption.

Surprisingly, they discovered that, even after controlling for a plethora of demographic, health, and lifestyle variables, individuals who used marijuana for non-medical purposes had a staggering 96 percent lower odds of reporting SCD than non-users. Put differently, compared to their peers who abstained, recreational cannabis users were significantly less likely to report memory and cognitive declines.

The use of cannabis for non-medical purposes as well as for medical purposes was linked to a lower risk of sickle cell disease (SCD), but these associations were not statistically significant. Furthermore, there was no discernible difference in the subjective odds of cognitive decline between the frequency of cannabis use and the mode of consumption (eating, smoking, or vaping).

The researchers offer several possible mechanisms to explain this new and unexpected finding. The primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives users a “high,” might be involved. Very low doses of THC may help older mice’s cognitive function, according to some animal research; however, more research is needed to determine whether this effect extends to people.

Another thing to think about is that a lot of people use cannabis, especially the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD), to help with stress and sleep issues. These two things are risk factors for cognitive decline in later life. Over time, improved cognitive outcomes may result from non-medical cannabis use if it helps reduce stress and enhance sleep.

The researchers do, however, warn that these findings are still preliminary and that additional research is necessary to fully understand the intricate connection between cannabis use and cognitive decline. They point out a few study limitations, such as the fact that the study only included adults 45 and older and relied on self-reported data, which may mean that the findings do not apply to younger people.

Wong states in a university release that “the main takeaway is that cannabis might be protective for our cognition, but it is really crucial to have longitudinal studies because this is just a snapshot of 2021.”. “We don’t know if using non-medical cannabis improves cognition or if using non-medical cannabis makes people with better cognition more likely to use it.”. Longitudinal research is required to determine whether non-medical cannabis use preserves cognitive function over the long haul. We don’t currently know that, but because cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, research into it is hampered. “.

According to the study, there was a decreased risk of sickle cell disease (SCD) in those with higher education, better physical and mental health, and no history of heart disease. These findings are consistent with earlier research. This emphasizes how crucial it is to age healthily overall in order to preserve mental health throughout life.

Nevertheless, the discussion about cannabis use and cognition in older adults gains an intriguing new perspective thanks to this study. While the propaganda surrounding “reefer madness” in the past presented cannabis as categorically harmful to memory and cognition, the truth might be more complex.

Of course, this does not imply that elderly people should light up joints in an effort to fend off dementia. Use of marijuana carries some risks and potential side effects, particularly when high dosages are consumed or certain medical conditions are present. Federal bans mean that there is no quality control for cannabis products, so they could be contaminated or mislabeled.

Nevertheless, it’s critical that researchers keep looking into the possible advantages and disadvantages of cannabis use for the aging brain as more states legalize and de-stigmatize it and as a greater percentage of adults use it for recreational and medical purposes. Given the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias among the aging population, any insights into averting or postponing cognitive decline would be highly beneficial.

As we age, experts advise concentrating on the numerous research-backed pillars of brain-healthy living, such as maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, maintaining social connections, and partaking in mentally challenging activities. These time-tested practices are a strong basis for a lifetime of healthy aging—both in body and mind—even though the effects of cannabis on cognition are still up for debate.

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