Experts Warn About Cannabis Use on Brain Health

While some believe cannabis is safe, scientific evidence says otherwise. According to Science Daily, there’s scientific evidence that highlights marijuana’s detrimental impact on brain health.

cannabis use on brain healthA new American Heart Association scientific statement recently published in its journal Stroke claims that there’s still worry about the health impacts of cannabis consumption.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the medical community about the health effects of marijuana. This scientific statement is intended to guide health care professionals in having a balanced and intentional discussion with patients about the potential known and unknown effects of marijuana on brain health,” explained writing group Chair Fernando D. Testai, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA. As a professor of neurology and rehabilitation at the University of Illinois at Chicago, it’s safe to say he is an expert in the field.

This statement came after the Association made its first scientific statement regarding how cannabis impacts brain health, which followed a statement on cannabis’s impact on cardiovascular health that was published in 2020.

Both of these statements outline how cannabis consumption in the U.S. is rising, namely, among young adults and adolescents. Around one-third of U.S. high school seniors and almost 50 percent of college students reported cannabis consumption in 2018. This comes with an increase in THC concentration in cannabis products, which rose from around 4 percent in 1995 to 15 percent in 2018.

For us to have a well-rounded understanding of the possible detrimental effects of cannabis, it’s essential to consider the body’s production of endocannabinoids, which are comparable to the compounds found in cannabis. These regulate a plethora of body processes, and endocannabinoids assist in prenatal brain development and brain maturation throughout adolescence, as well.

Endocannabinoids have the ability to attach to neurons found in the brain. These neurons are called cannabinoid receptors, and they’re highly concentrated in various areas of the brain that handle cognition.

Through the statement, the Association announced that some animal studies reveal that consistent exposure to THC impacts learning and memory. It also affects brain maturation and development at some points in life, particularly prenatal and throughout adolescence.

Ultimately, this data highlights that disrupting endocannabinoid pathways results in cognitive and behavioral abnormalities. This includes decreased learning abilities, heightened sensitivity to stress, and diminished memory.

Despite the fact that the researchers were more easily able to control the precise timing and marijuana exposure during these animal studies, along with the animals’ environmental and social conditions, human research studies are incapable of replicating the strict parameters associated with these tests.

With this in mind, the current research studies on humans do not offer aligned results. However, they do show that the effects of cannabis exposure on brain health might be problematic.

Human studies have found the following:

  • Active marijuana use results in worse driving road test scores, particularly while consuming THC-dominant strains.
  • Young adults followed for 25 years during a heart disease project had lower scores on verbal memory tests associated with years of self-reported cannabis consumption.
  • Children (average age of 9) showcased poorer cognitive function and an increase in psychological problem prevalence if their mothers reported using cannabis during pregnancy.
  • Adolescent cannabis use resulted in prefrontal cortex thinning. This part of the brain is responsible for cognitive functions.
  • Some studies compared cannabis consumers to non-consumers, highlighting structural alterations in the brain. Mainly, some brain areas responsible for memory and thinking thinned or lessened in volume.
  • Cannabis consumers have a heightened risk of stroke resulting from blood clots.

Through these statements from the American Heart Association, the hope is to spread more awareness about how cannabis might impact cardiovascular disease and stroke-related issues. More research is needed, of course. But ultimately, the signs that cannabis may come with significant brain health concerns are observable.

What do you think? Does marijuana consumption impact brain health?

Let us know in the comments below!

Louis Levey is the Content Success Manager and Founder at No Strings Content. He's passionate about helping cannabis businesses use content to attract, educate, and convert audiences. His hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, but he currently lives and works remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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