Study: Medical Cannabis Use Associated With Improved Cognitive Performance, Reduced Use Of Opioids

Marijuana researchMedical cannabis administration is associated with improved cognitive performance and lower levels of prescription drug use, according to longitudinal data published online in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

Investigators from Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and McLean Hospital evaluated the use of medicinal cannabis on patients’ cognitive performance over a three-month period. Participants in the study were either naïve to cannabis or had abstained from the substance over the previous decade. Baseline evaluations of patients’ cognitive performance were taken prior to their cannabis use and then again following treatment.

Researchers reported “no significant decrements in performance” following medical marijuana use. Rather, they determined, “[P]atients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy.”

Participants in the study were less likely to experience feelings of depression during treatment, and many significantly reduced their use of prescription drugs. “[D]ata revealed a notable decrease in weekly use across all medication classes, including reductions in use of opiates (-42.88 percent), antidepressants (-17.64 percent), mood stabilizers (-33.33 percent), and benzodiazepines (-38.89 percent),” authors reported – a finding that is consistent with prior studies.

Patients in the study will continue to be assessed over the course of one-year of treatment to assess whether these preliminary trends persist long-term.

Full text of the study, “Splendor in the grass? A pilot study assessing the impact of marijuana on executive function,” appears online here.

29 thoughts

  1. Scary, especially if you are “employed” by a Big pHARMa company that markets opiates and benzodiazepines.

    Wait, what about stupid impulse shopping that will be reduced when increased populations of cannabis users experience Improved Cognitive Function? How will Walgreen and Walmart make money?

    Casino gambling too will take a hit– everyone knows “the system is rigged” in favor of the house but suckers delude themselves they will beat the odds (“a trump card will save me”). Well, those Big Box stores are casinos– the sucker gambles her/his money that a shock-advertised product will solve their problem, improve their life. When disappointed, they just gamble/shop more money (cyclical boughtism).

    Will legalized cannabis bring with it mass conversion to not-so-easy-to-hide-from-the-cop Vaporizers and kill the $800-billion worldwide monoxide $igarette industry? Help 1.2 billion nico-addicts find their way through the withdrawal pains maze?

    Maybe Mr. Trump will try cannabis for the first time, experience Improved Cognitive Function, and figure out how to use cannabis/hemp to create hundreds of millions of joyously amazing jobs for farmers, manufacturers, white, black and everyone everywhere. Maybe Hillary and the whole Clinton Foundation will try it too and help those jobs and that infrastructure revolution happen here and worldwide.

    PS I am encouraged that Mr. Trump and Mr. Adelson by their own account have never $moked $igarettes, good luck everybody, now get to work making flexdrawtube oneheaters!

  2. This being true tell me why chronic pain patients are now being asked to choose between marijuana use and their opiates doctors will no longer prescribe both as the government will not allow it

    1. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
      Really they’re just protecting their self interests and covering their arses while obsessing on control. I don’t think we can handle ‘truth in government’.

    2. Cathy, as a nurse for the last 18 years and having worked with pain patients i am abl to easily answer your question. That answer is as follows: Because the U.S. govt via the U.S. Pharmacopia all Rx pain meds and cannabis are in the same drug schedule/classification, that being schedule I the highest and most risk for addiction do to potentcy. Ergo by safe practice standards it can be potentially fatal for a person to be on more than one Sched. I drug at a time, this is in effort again reduce dependency/addiction. therefore the govt. makes you chose for your safety because the govt. as always knows whats best for you.

  3. I knew pot makes you smarter — hell, it got me through college! But until now, I’ve only told that to my closest confidants, because I knew that, for most people in the 80’s, hearing that pot makes you smarter was more than they could handle; I didn’t want to undermine my credibility on the matter. I was still trying to let people know that pot wasn’t evil incarnate.

    A friend I trust suggested that perhaps cannabis wasn’t making me smarter, perhaps it was a case of “my needle being just a little bit off” and the medical aspects of the herb putting me right. I found that plausible. But now the science seems to indicate I was right all along. Hmmm.

    Also, the decrease in the use of such a wide variety of other drugs by the people in the study suggests that many people have an unmet medical need for cannabis, one which they either aren’t aware of or cannot change. The suffering induced by an unbalanced and/or deficient endocannabinoid system may be causing them to turn to other drugs in search of relief. In turn, this behavior could easily be mistaken for an “addictive personality” (a term more political than medical), perhaps even by the person in question. This is neither science or medicine; it’s Quackery. And it’s a crime against Humanity.

    We truly need to pull our collective head out of our collective ass, and put cannabis back into the medical pharmacopeia where it belongs.

    [Paul Armentano responds: My suspicion is that the improved cognitive performance identified in the study is a result of a) symptom mitigation due to medical cannabis use; in other words patients perform better when they feel better physically, and b) the reduced use by this cohort of opioids, benzos and other drugs that likely adversely impact cognitive performance. It’s a small sample size but the authors will continue to monitor and assess so eventually we will know if these outcomes persist long-term.]

    1. In response to Mitchem’s post and Paul’s response about pot making you smarter. I have smoked for decades now. I smoked my way through grad school and did my best academic performance ever. Yes I’ve smoked since I was 15 but never regularly but by the time I started grad school I was what you’d call a “pot head” completely. Rather than worry if I had an addiction, I decided to fully embrace it. During my 3 years in grad school I was never late on an assignment and only missed one class when I had the flu. Later on I underwent psychological testing for ADHD and took those very tests mentioned in the study. I remember being told by the snippy psych intern (who was young enough to be my child) not to smoke marijuana before taking the tests. The first set of tests I complied with her directive and did not smoke prior to the test. But then she pissed me off by leaving an appointment reminder call and again on the voice recording reminded me to not smoke any pot before the test, so out of spite I burned a top-shelf bud in the parking lot right before going in for the test. In both sets of tests I scored in the “superior” or “very superior” range. Here’s where I differ with Paul’s take on the improved performance: I’ve never taken opioids and do not and did not have chronic pain that might have been distracting me.

      Rather than being a result of pot alleviating symptoms, I believe that pot enhances cognitive performance by stimulating neuron growth. With so much evidence that pot has positive health effects (lower incidence of diabetes, increased propensity for exercise, lower incidence of cancer, to name a few) pot is showing itself to be more of a fountain of youth than a frying pan for your brain.

      1. Yes indeed Fireweed, you nailed one aspect of “improved cognitive performance” and that is NEUROGENESIS. Marijuana increases the growth of neurons, repairs broken ones and increases neuro-connectivity and organ function. Marijuana IS panacea; creating homeostasis throughout the endocannabinoid system, therefore healing imbalance and neurodegenerative disease we might not even intuitively be aware we have, and improve cognitive function through a synergy of nourishment.
        We must resist these bipolar political debates of “either-or” when the more humane and accurate answer to complicated questions like our capacity of “cognitive function” under the consumption of marijuana are “both and more.”
        One of the greatest benefits of THC, mixed with a variety of cannabinoids, is its ability to change our perspective in a relaxed and conscious manner. This may seem like a simple, ephemeral achievement, but when we are under severe stress, depressed, or simply distracted with multi-tasking day-to-day activities, regular consumption of marijuana helps us IDENTIFY ourselves with different perspectives and helps us imagine solutions to problems that may become such a great deal of plausible deniability… to borrow a phrase… that we are scaresely aware that we are trapped in a recurring nightmare and are in desperate need of self medication. I will give exception to first time consumers who must face their fears as part of a denoumovement in the story of their life: the beginning of a fantastic healing process. But make no mistake; Marijuana can literally shut the door to anxiety and allow us to revisit recurring traumatic stress… to perceive ourselves… in a positive and constructive fashion: and for that we must all pause and value the beauty and tenacity of this wonderful plant as it has coevolved with our ancestors.

      2. Thanks again to Julian for another Word of the Year candidate, DENOUMOVEMENT, I’m still figuring out how to pronounce it but a tentative definition might be cannabinoid-induced innovative exercise both mental and physical. Alternate spelling DueNewMovement. Please everyone read, review, revise, improve human/cannabis coevolution essay presently still timidly hidden away at– new title needed?

        Man’s Best Friend–
        Vegetal Animal

        Cannabis Canis
        Hanf Hund
        dagga dog
        riefer retriever
        pot poodle

      3. Sorry Mexweed, but I mispelled the word;
        “Denouement.” (Phonetically pronounced “Day-new-MON.”
        It refers to a dramatic ending to a play, or as defined above;

        “…the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot, as of a drama or novel.”

        A place where marijuana seems to lead human beings, especially those who have resisted discovering themselves and have developed unhealthy quantities of inhibitions then subsequently tries marijuana for the first time.
        The “v” came from the miseducation of an egotistical teacher. I learned quickly that was not the correct way to spell denouement, but once taught wrong, twice corrected.

  4. I’ve had been on two drugs that the Doc put me on. Adrenal and Vicoden. After my move too Colorado I’ve been off the two narcotic for over three years. I’ve lost 80 lbs. of body weight. Also got smart and got of drinking alcohol. And I thank the medical cannabis for my getting healthy. Thank you Colorado

    1. Likewise I have been off of any regular use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety or adhd meds since 2014 when I went to Colorado and was finally able to get some better bud than the ditchweed that is so common in the Toledo area.

  5. Hi I am writing because I am very interested in getting medical marijuana on a voting ballet here in Georgia how can Norml help? Seem that norml is such a big help and so many people live here in Georgia I think it could get the ball rolling here in the south!

    [Paul Armentano responds: Georgia does not permit voter-initiated ballot measures. Any change in state laws must be achieved legislatively via votes in the state House and Senate. There are active NORML chapters in Georgia and they are gearing up for the 2017 legislative session. Contact:

  6. Thank you for the information Paul. Now we need to get this message to President Elect Trump in 140 characters or less. It’s obvious after this election that Americans want safe access to medicine that doesn’t list death as a side effect.

  7. Paul! Please help out a brother! How we’s ever gonna get mary jane legals in New Yorks. Chapter here not very active to say the lease. Never repond to emails or post anything new for years. Is their even being a NY chapters anymores?

      1. Of course, I don’t actually know who it is.

        Maybe their name really is Tyrone; that’s a real name, a fine name, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But it’s also the first “black” man’s name that racist cracker comes up with when they’re trying to be funny.

        Maybe Tyrone really is black. Maybe he/she is not actually a white cracker trying to be funny, trying to make a fool out of Paul. But here’s the giveaway: nobody writes like that, even if they speak like that in real life. Nobody except Mark Twain, who wrote black dialogue phonetically, for artistic reasons.

        Thanks for putting up the link, in any case. That’s the important thing.

  8. I am a medical smoker. I am a recreational smoker. I am a recovering addict and I have to stop smoking so I can get a job. I have to take pain killers now that I have to have handed out to me by my wife because I can’t trust myself, I don’t want to do the shameful things of my past again all because of my lack of control over a drug that the doctor I go see would rather I be able to smoke marijuana before taking the pain pills in a state (WI) that accepts my out of state (OR) medical cannabis endorsement yet does not allow or have any program of their own. My suggestion is that the Green Supporters of America unite. It is clearly visible that we are many in number. We vary in position from the mail room to the board room. If we all put in our notice to the HR department for April 20th to have off the country would not stop but shit would be hectic and the non smokers will sure appreciate us more. My point is that I am sick of the bullshit we need to stand up and say enough is enough, mind your business DEA go focus on the heroin and pill heads shit that actually kills people. Legalization of marijuana and taxation will be the first step in reducing the national debt, come on Pres. Obama Pres. Lincoln didn’t get the best review at first when he passed the Emancipation proclamation. Don’t let Donald duck step in and legalize it because he has no other option and take the credit for the billions in revenue! In either case I will be asking everyone I know to ask for 4/20 off and do it right now, before your co-workers get the free spots off and have to fight for it. I want 4/20 declared a national holiday just because all of the soldiers who have fought in the war on drugs need to be recognized for their efforts in getting marijuana removed from the listing as a harmful drug!

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  10. ive been knownin this .ive have consumed cannabis for 32 yrs until 7 yrs,9 months ago when my employer began hair testing. i have noticed what seems to be more of a decline in focus, complete thought patterns,motivation, general happiness with self in these seven plus looooong years. feel like im becoming straight up stupid!

  11. mj has previously been shown to help heal traumatic brain injuries.

    mj is excellent for PTSD.
    (which is a type of brain ‘injury’)

    MANY famous poets, musicians, and artists used it to enhance their creativity.

    and one colledge physics professor recomended it to his students, to help them understand quantum physics.

    but the haters still say “pot rots your brain”.

    THE HATERS, are the ones with ROTTEN BRAINS.

    THEIR brains are so rotten,
    zombies will not eat them…

  12. !!! That Opioids are, per CDC guidelines being reduced and taken away from patients IS the case that needs to be brought Right Now! in Pennsylvania, as justification and necessity to accelerate medical marijuana to all traditional Opioid Pain Management candidates of our Commonwealth – you addict us, then take it away, and say we have to wait to 2018? Not! This is the foundational tenets, but the devil is in the detail.

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