Older adults currently represent the fastest growing demographic of cannabis users, yet few studies have investigated the effects of cannabis use on cognitive functioning in aging.
The demographic of older adults is experiencing a rapid increase in cannabis usage, but little research has delved into the impact of cannabis on cognitive abilities in the aging population.
The findings of the study reveal that there is a shortage of research focused on the effects of cannabis use on cognitive function in older populations. Out of the articles reviewed, only six specifically addressed older individuals, with three studies involving humans and three involving rodents. The human studies generally reported neutral or inconclusive outcomes, largely due to methodological limitations that could have influenced the reliability of the results. But the researchers of the study concluded that individuals with a history of occasional cannabis use demonstrated the highest cognitive performance among the three groups studied. Additionally, they recognized that frequent cannabis use did not show any correlation with a decline in cognitive abilities over the duration of the study.
On the other hand, the rodent studies, which were better controlled, provided more nuanced insights. They indicated that the relationship between the active compound in cannabis, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cognitive function in healthy aging is influenced by both age and the level of THC exposure. Notably, very low doses of THC seemed to enhance cognitive function in aged rodents, while somewhat higher chronic doses of THC appeared to have a positive impact on cognitive function in moderately aged rodents.
Interestingly, none of the studies examined the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) or cannabis strains with high CBD content on cognitive function in older populations.
This highlights an existing research gap regarding the potential cognitive effects of CBD or CBD-rich cannabis in this demographic.