Study examines impact of medical cannabis on the brain
It seems that the more a science gets its hands on cannabis, the more we break down prejudices. A new pilot study from Harvard University, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, confirms this. The medical use of cannabis can increase the functioning of a patient's brain.
The study, titled Splendor in the Grass, studies the impact of medical cannabis on the executive functions of the brain. This is the first of its kind, and the first results have shown great promise.
The researchers note that despite the ease of access to cannabis in recent years, their trials are pioneering. They use what they call a "pre-post-design template". Thus the functions of the subjects' executive brain are tested before and after the administration of medical cannabis.
The study notes that the ban was not justified, based on the results of studies demonstrating its usefulness as a drug.
A different impact for young people and adults.
They also indicate that while cannabis has adverse effects on brain development in children and adolescents, most medical cannabis users are adults. Thus the stage of cognitive development of the brain, during which cannabis can have a negative effect, has already passed.
As a result, they decided to test whether medical cannabis could have the opposite effect by improving brain abilities rather than inhibiting them. The harvard researchers chose medical cannabis in particular because of its unique chemical labeling. In other words, when recreational cannabis often contains higher levels of THC, medical alternatives use higher concentrations of non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
Of these, certain chemical compounds such as cannabigerol and the tetrahydrocannabivarin are considered neurogenic or neuroprotective. So they are involved either in the cell restoration lost from the brain, either in the prevention of their degeneration.
A test performed on a small but promising population sample
Harvard researchers conducted the study over a period of 12 months, with 32 participants. They were tested at three, six and finally 12 months.
To be eligible for the study, participants had to have never used medical cannabis. The other condition was not to have used cannabis in the past ten years. They must also have the necessary authorization, and have sought treatment for anxiety, depression or insomnia.
After just three months of medical treatment with marijuana, participants showed an increase in their ability to complete any tests regarding accuracy or speed, suggesting that the treatments over time increase brain function.
The researchers acknowledged that the sample size of 32 was rather small and that the nature of the study design prevented them from using placebos since patients acquired their own medication from different doctors. That being said, this study is the first of its kind.
According to Staci Gruber, Ph.D., director of the Cannabis Research for Neurochemical Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital, “As a clinical researcher, I'm not interested in whether it's right or wrong. I am only interested in the truth. This is what our patients and users have a right to know and a right to expect from us. People will use it. It is up to us to find the best and safest ways to do this. "
The initial results are encouraging and the study researchers will further explore the effects of cannabis on cognitive abilities and behavior to confirm the initial results.