With the legalization of marijuana in many states and soon to be implemented across Canada, there has been plenty of healthy debate about the hazards of cannabis, especially the effect THC has on the brains of young adults. But a growing number of seniors are also turning to marijuana to ease symptoms of chronic illness without the use of addictive opioid drugs, and in older adults, cannabis may have a very different effect on the brain.
According to a recent study from the University of Bonn in Germany, published in Nature Medicine, younger mice given low doses of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana, performed slightly worse on behavioral tests. But mature and older mice who performed worse than their younger peers did on the same tests, improved their scores to near that of young, untreated mice when given THC.
Cannabis is increasingly used among older adults to alleviate pain and nausea, help with sleep and improve mood but could it have applications for restoring cognitive abilities? The results from studying mice has researchers excited about testing the effects of THC on elderly adults with mild cognitive impairments and funding from the German government has been granted to continue the project.
As the number of adults over the age of 50 who use marijuana continues to soar, understanding how the drug works in the aging brain will be invaluable. It is important to note that the German study used low doses of THC to produce it’s results and it is unknown what would occur with higher doses.
The new trials will use purified THC in order to precisely control the dosage. And before you run to get your medical marijuana card or head to the pot shop, remember the required marijuana label warning: this product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgement. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.