There is a lot of discussion on whether cannabis is harmful or safe for health. Medical cannabis is legalized in 37 US states. In 19 states, even recreational marijuana is legal. Doctors prescribe it for many health issues, like seizures or nausea. But are there any negative side effects of using cannabis long-term? In particular, does it affect the brain?
Does long-term cannabis use lead to health problems?
A new study was conducted to test if cannabis affected the cognitive abilities of people. Scientists examined almost a thousand individuals and found out that using cannabis can lead to various problems related to the functioning of the brain.
Firstly, the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is important for cognition and remembering information, was smaller for heavy users of cannabis. The IQ score of test subjects went down compared to childhood, and the speed of learning also decreased.
Memory and the ability to focus also showed signs of damage. People who displayed the symptoms were all heavy users of cannabis.
How big is the risk?
The research showed that heavy long-term use of cannabis has a stronger link to cognitive problems than the effect of alcohol and tobacco. However, if people did not have an addiction to cannabis and used it less often than once a week, their brain functions did not seem to be affected. This means that there might be a certain amount and frequency of cannabis use that is safe for long-term use. But this issue needs more research.
Tips on how to reduce the effect of cannabis on cognition
There are some common symptoms that are often connected to the use of cannabis: lack of motivation, brain fog, inability to focus, etc. If you are worried about certain side effects, you may consider taking some steps to diminish the risk of health problems.
Here are some things you might do:
- Talk to your doctor. The medical perspective is very important because the symptoms could be connected to things other than the use of cannabis.
- Choose a less potent strain of cannabis. Decrease the amount of THC content.
- Gradually reduce the frequency of cannabis use.
- Track your mental health. There are apps that can test your cognitive abilities.
- Try other strategies. Meditation, exercise, or therapy might also bring a positive effect on your cognition.
There is still not enough research on the effect of long-term cannabis use on the brain. Recent studies discovered the link between cognitive problems and active use of cannabis, but it is too early to make definitive conclusions.