Friday, May 24, 2024

Exploring the Link: Cannabis Use May Guard Against Cognitive Decline, Reveals Upstate Study

A groundbreaking study conducted by Upstate Medical University presents compelling evidence that recreational cannabis could play a role in decreasing the risk of cognitive decline. This finding challenges longstanding beliefs and calls for more detailed, long-term research.

Fresh Insights on Cannabis and Cognitive Health

Researchers at Upstate Medical University, including Zhi Chen, a Master of Public Health student, and Professor Roger Wong, have unveiled a significant association between recreational cannabis use and reduced odds of subjective cognitive decline (SCD) in older adults. Analyzing data from the CDC’s 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System involving 4,744 participants aged 45 and older, the study found a striking 96 percent decrease in the odds of SCD among non-medical cannabis users compared to those who do not use cannabis.

Contrasting Views and the Need for Comprehensive Analysis

The results stand in stark contrast to earlier studies that linked cannabis use with increased cognitive deterioration. “The findings suggest a potential protective effect of cannabis on cognition, which is contrary to prior studies,” explained Wong. He emphasized the preliminary nature of these results and the critical need for longitudinal studies to understand the long-term impact better.

Study Design and Methodological Considerations

The research uniquely addressed various dimensions of cannabis use, including the reasons for use (medical vs. non-medical), consumption frequency, and methods (smoking, vaping, eating, or dabbing). This comprehensive approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of how different factors contribute to cognitive health outcomes.

Surprising Lack of Impact by Consumption Method and Frequency

Interestingly, neither the frequency of cannabis use nor the method of consumption showed a significant correlation with SCD, which diverges from findings in younger demographics where these factors influenced cognitive outcomes negatively. “This could indicate that age may be a mitigating factor in how cannabis affects cognitive health,” Wong noted.

Implications and Future Directions

The study’s insights are vital, especially as the debate over cannabis legalization continues in various jurisdictions. While the study points to potential cognitive health benefits associated with non-medical cannabis use, the authors acknowledge limitations, including potential biases from state-specific cannabis regulations.


Overall, this study contributes significantly to the ongoing discussion about cannabis and its complex role in public health, particularly in relation to cognitive decline. As Wong sums it up, “While we observe some protective benefits, it is essential to approach these findings with caution and pursue further research to confirm these early observations.”

Reference: “Association Between Cannabis Use and Subjective Cognitive Decline: Findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)” by Zhi Chen and Roger Wong, 23 February 2024, Current Alzheimer Research. DOI: 10.2174/0115672050301726240219050051

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