If you are a regular medical cannabis user and you are at all concerned that your medications may impair cognitive ability, a brand new study out of Australia could put your mind at ease. The study showed no definitive link between controlled medical cannabis consumption and cognitive impairment.
It’s important to note that the study was extremely small, enrolling just 40 participants. Researchers also qualified the study by making it clear it was conducted among patients already using a stable level of medical cannabis pursuant to the particular conditions they were being treated for. Nonetheless, their data is worth taking a good look at.
General Recommendations for Patients
It is understood that THC is an intoxicating cannabinoid. Get enough of it in your system and you are bound to experience its effects. But whether those effects lead to cognitive impairment or not depends on a variety of factors. It is not necessarily a given that an individual patient who uses a small amount of THC daily experiences cognitive impairment as a result.
It is the mere possibility of impairment that leads to general recommendations for patients. Those recommendations include avoiding driving immediately after consuming THC. But it’s possible the recommendations are made based on a misunderstanding of how medical cannabis is consumed.
What the Research Revealed
Australian researchers enrolled 40 participants who were already on a stable dose of THC prior to the start of the study. They were asked to refrain from consuming THC for at least thirty days before the study commenced.
Each participant was given a single dose of medical cannabis in a controlled setting. They were then tested via a number of cognitive tasks while simultaneously being asked to report how they felt. When all was said and done, researchers did not notice any demonstrable change in cognition among the participants.
However, there were some differences in how participants described their feelings. For example, those who consumed THC via marijuana flower reported feeling “more stoned” compared to those that consumed a concentrated oil.
Recreational Use Studies
The researchers were also clear to point out that their results contradict at least two previous studies that show definite cognitive impairment among recreational consumers. But there could be good reasons for that. Recreational users tend to consume larger amounts of THC specifically because they are interested in its intoxicating effects.
Just as an alcohol user is likely to experience cognitive impairment commensurate with the amount of alcohol consumed, cannabis users seem to have similar experiences. The larger the volume of THC, the higher likelihood of cognitive impairment. And since medical cannabis users are not necessarily looking to get high, they may consume less THC on a daily basis.
Delivery Method Matters
Yet another consideration is the delivery method. When medical cannabis patients walk into the Beehive Farmacy in Utah, they instantly have access to products designed for a variety of delivery methods. They can purchase vape liquids, tinctures, edible products, and even flower that can be dry heated in a special vaping device.
This matters because the delivery method heavily influences how quickly THC gets into the system as well as how long it stays there. Someone medicating via edible gummies is probably less likely to experience cognitive impairment compared to someone who dry heats flower.
The point of all of this is to say that medical cannabis users who consume the least amount of THC to treat their conditions are not likely to experience acute cognitive impairment as a result. However, caution should still be exercised just to be on the safe side.