Study Finds Cannabis Does Not Impact Cognitive Function in Seniors

An increasing number of seniors have started to use cannabis for a variety of reasons, including combating chronic pain and getting a better night’s sleep. A recent study has found seniors who do use cannabis experience no more cognitive deficiencies than those who do not.

That’s important news for older Americans. Use of marijuana is on the rise for seniors, who use it to treat issues such as pain and nausea.

The new study, published in Drug and Alcohol Review, was conducted by Israeli scientists led by researchers from the University of Haifa. Researchers launched the study to determine the “relationship between long-term medical cannabis (MC) use and cognitive function in a sample of middle-aged and old chronic pain patients.”

Researchers Did The Study With Chronic Pain Patients

The Israeli scientists conducted the study by gathering two groups of people over the age of 50. Everyone involved suffered from chronic pain. Half the group used medical marijuana to help deal with the pain, while the other half did not.

To assess the impact of cannabis, researchers compared the scores of both groups on a battery of cognitive tests. Those tests assessed various areas of cognitive performance, including psychomotor reaction, attention, working memory and new learning.

The researchers also compared test results between those who used varying levels of marijuana. They found not only was there no significant difference in cognitive performance between those who used cannabis and those who didn’t, but also that the level of medical marijuana use did not seem to impact scores.

“These results suggest that use of whole plant (medical cannabis) does not have a widespread impact on cognition in older chronic pain patients,” the researcher wrote. “Considering the increasing use of MC in older populations, this study could be a first step towards a better risk-benefit assessment of MC treatment in this population.”

The Study Is Good News For Seniors

While researchers said more study is needed on the impact of cannabis on seniors who use it for medicine, the study findings provide hope that medical cannabis can continue to help seniors deal with pain and other issues.

More are doing so than ever. A 2019 survey from Colorado found 45% of seniors used cannabis in the past year. A majority of them said cannabis improved their quality of life. Many of them used marijuana for pain management.

In that and other studies, seniors have said they use cannabis to deal with pain from arthritis and chronic back pain. They also report that cannabis use helps their feelings of anxiety and depression. Others have said they use cannabis to deal with glaucoma.

The Israeli researchers argued that several factors contribute to this uptick in marijuana use. Among them are a more accepting attitude toward marijuana use, as well as policies that reflect that acceptance. Another factor is longer life expectancy, meaning more aging people than ever are dealing with pain and other issues for more years.

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