Surprising Study: Recreational Cannabis Use Linked to Lower Risk of Cognitive Decline


A new study from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University shows that recreational cannabis use does not necessarily lead to cognitive impairments but might actually reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Research that was published in the journal known as Current Alzheimer Research noted that nonmedical cannabis use lowered the probability of SCD by 96 %. This is not in line with earlier studies showing that cannabis usage leads to a decline in the brain’s functioning. The study coauthor Dr. Roger Wong even remarked on the cause of the results that could redefine the effects of marijuana products on the health of the brain. Since the prevention of dementia is still not clearly in sight, such findings provide indications of novel approaches to slow down cognitive decline.

Overview of the Study

A group of scientists from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University wanted to find a connection between cannabis use and a decline in cognitive abilities. They sought data from the CDC‘s 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and included nearly 4,800 U.S adults, 45 and older. The primary objectives of the study were to ascertain whether medical, nonmedical, or dual use of cannabis and respective consumption frequencies influenced SCD which is an undesirable severity of memory deterioration or confusion more often than before within a year.

Key Findings

It was a surprise finding that recreational cannabis use was associated with a substantially lower risk for SCD. Thus, the study establishes that the probability of SCD in nonmedical cannabis users was 96% lower than that of non-users. This implication is quite contrary to other similar studies that had determined cannabis consumption to be a leading cause of cognitive worsening, which has altered the earlier conceptions regarding cannabis’s effect on cognitive health.

Subsequent analysis indicated that although both the dual use of cannabis, medical use, and no use were significantly associated with reduced risks of SCD, the increase in the frequency of both of these uses did not reach statistical significance. The study suggest that these results indicate that the cognitive executed benefits could be more prominent with non-medical utilization. The detailed questionnaire covered such aspects as the frequency and the way of using cannabis so that the research described the usage pattern of the respondents extensively.

It also described the frequencies of the different ways through which users consumed the substance; this revealed that smoking was the primary method. However, the authors observed that while the common trend proved positive, regular cannabis usage appeared to have some impact on impaired cognitive function, though not statistically. These studies show that the cannabis effect and cognition are not in black and white, there is more to learn about the effects of cannabis consumption on the cognitive abilities of human beings.

Analysis of Cannabis Use Patterns

In the study, different patterns of cannabis usage were analyzed focusing on the difference in the frequency, the main use, and the ways of taking it that affected the performance of the cognition tests. With regards to cannabis use, 7.9% of the 4,784 respondents in the study who are 45 years and above said that they use cannabis. These users were categorized based on their reasons for use: these subtypes include, nonmedical prescription drug use, prescription drug abuse, or both medical and nonmedical prescription drug use.

Concerning the consumption pattern, smoking was the most common practice among the participants, and other practices include ingestion and absorption through the mouth, ingestion through the stomach, vaporization and dab. The study highlighted that the frequency of use varied, with respondents reporting an average usage of 4 days out of the previous 30 days. Although there was an indication of a relationship between increased frequency of cannabis consumption and reduced cognitive calibre, such a relationship was insignificant, meaning that moderate usage could be beneficial.

In the same vein, a reduction in operations for SCD was observed among people who engaged in medical marijuana use or both medical and other reasons, though the associations were not found to be statistically significant. This suggests that there might be differences in the impact of cannabis depending on the intent and possibility of the type of cannabis. The findings of the research suggest that it is equally essential to take the mere quantity of cannabis together with the rationales behind its usage, and approaches to using it to determine the effect of cannabis on cognition.

Interpretations and Expert Opinions

Study coauthor Roger Wong, Ph.D., stated that he was amazed by the results, as other investigations confirmed that cannabis leads to further cognitive deterioration. Concerning this issue, he underlined the importance of looking into the fact that the nonmedical use demonstrated substantial improvement which has been attributed to the possibility of the existence of clearly different chemicals in cannabis.

In saying so, Dr. Brooke Worster stressed the composition of cannabis and the proportion of THC and CBD regarding the impact on cognition. She proposed that possibly, comprehending these components explicates why nonmedical cannabis seems to have a protective effect.

Both the experts admitted that sleep could be involved because a majority of users claimed that cannabis aids in getting them a good night’s sleep. Better sleep quality might be an indirect contribution to slowing down cognitive degeneration, thus providing another factor to how the use of cannabis affects the human brain.

Implications for Public Health and Cannabis Policy

The results of the study have important implications for the practice of public health and the regulation of cannabis use. First, they question the traditional narrative of cannabis as being a substance that is bad for the brain and argue for the idea that there may in fact be positive effects, particularly among those who consume the substance non-medically. This may lead to investigations on how to tap into these benefits for preventive measures for loss of cognitive abilities.

From a policy perspective, the study brings into focus current policy regulations on the use of cannabis especially for older people looking for other various treatments or leisure use. Due to the results of this evolving research limits and policies might have to be changed and some guidelines might have to be made it clearer for policymakers.

Furthermore, healthcare providers may be required to include discussions on the use of cannabis in the treatment process, especially for elderly persons with some concerns about their mental health. Education of the related consequences and aid to decision-making might improve patients’ results and security. In conclusion, the study calls for more awareness of the potential positives of social media but at the same time warns of the side effects and the need for more research and policy direction.


Lastly, the study of the State University of New York Upstate Medical University presented in this paper has shown that nonmedical cannabis use can protect elder people from SCD. The sign opposite to the expected one shows that the impact of cannabis on the brains’ health is not as simple as it might seem, and therefore more research needs to be conducted. Since dementia prevention is still a considerable public health issue, the examination of other strategies, including moderate marijuana use comes into question. These findings also stress the significance of revising current policies and healthcare protocols, which should be improved according to the emergent scientific knowledge, to meet the needs of older people who use cannabinoids for healing purposes.

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