When it comes to the topic of Cannabis and brain health, one of the main questions that keeps being raised is concerned with the effects it can have on the brain. The relationship that exists between the human brain and marijuana is a complex dynamic, and experts are only just starting to unravel its many mysteries. It’s no wonder then, that there are so many mixed messages out there about whether or not cannabis can have a negative impact on our cognitive function.
While there is some evidence that cannabis can impair cognitive function and memory in the short term, there is also evidence that it could have some neuroprotective functions that could help to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. How is this possible?
Well, cannabis is certainly a complex and diverse plant which is made up of numerous components, two of the most important being CBD and THC. Those components have an impact on the human brain in several ways due to the endocannabinoid system.
The Endocannabinoid System – An Overview
The human body’s ECS is comprised of a number of receptors in the nervous system and brain which play a key role in regulating physiology, appetite, mood, memory and pain. Marijuana contains over 80 different cannabinoids which interact with the receptors inside the brain. THC is the best-known component in Cannabis and is responsible for the psychoactive effect of the drug. CBD, on the other hand, which is another major component, has no psychoactive effects but has an essential role to play in stimulating the immune system, appetite, as well as pain management. This means that while Cannabis can have some negative effects on the brain, it can also have some positive ones too.
When someone uses cannabis, THC will be rapidly released into their bloodstream before traveling to their brain. Once it has been attached to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, communication slows between the brain cells. This causes the person to experience a high. They may also experience some or all of the following effects:
- Impaired or reduced short-term memory
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Altered senses
- Problems in thinking and problem solving
- Mood changes
- Reduced inhibitions
- Lethargy and sleepiness
- Increased talkativeness
- Lack of coordination
Some people may also experience more serious short-term effects on their brain function including:
These effects have been proven to be short-lived and rapidly diminish once use is discontinued.
There have been a number of studies carried out on whether marijuana has any long-term effect on the brain. The results appear to show that users who started taking cannabis as an adult experience no long-term effects from using weed and after several months, their brain function will return to normal. This, however, is not necessarily the case for users who began using cannabis during their adolescence.
People who started using marijuana when they were teenagers may have a number of long-term effects on their brain including:
- Memory problems
- Cognitive impairment
- Poor attention span
- Difficulty in retaining information
- Problems in controlling impulses
- Lower IQ
Positive Effects Of Cannabis On The Brain
Despite the potential problems, cannabis has been shown to have a potential neuroprotective effect on the brain, especially in the case of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Although research is still at an early stage, there are promising results that show that the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis on the brain may help to protect it from damage which may be caused by Alzheimer’s. Also, early evidence appears to show that cannabinoids may help to prevent brain damage and cognitive impairment while improving memory. More research will hopefully show that there are benefits to using cannabis when it comes to preventing dementia and other related conditions.