Researchers at the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, recently investigated the impact of medical marijuana on changes to executive functioning (referring to one's attentional and inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive ability). The longitudinal pilot study, involved 11 patients and was published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Because of this, researchers could better understand whether or not medical marijuana directly impacted executive functioning in patients. This study is the first of it's kind to conduct a longitudinal study that establishes executive functioning performance levels in patients before ever using marijuana, allowing researchers to understand pre-marijuana brain function and better determine whether or not the resulting data was an impact of marijuana use.
The patients studied had either never used marijuana, or had not used marijuana regularly for at least ten years. Once enrolled in the study, they were free to consume whichever medical marijuana product they desired, and could continue prescription medication use if they wished. Subjects consumed medical marijuana on an average of 9.3 times a week. Investigators re-assessed patients' symptoms, cognitive performance, and medication usage after three months, and found patients reported reduced levels of depression, improvements in sleep, better energy levels, and reduced impulsive tendencies. Patients improved on two cognitive function tasks, which included a Trail Making Test and the Stroop Color Word Test. Additionally, prescription medication use declined. Opioid use dropped by 42%, while antidepressant use declined by 18%.
This study is small, but the results are positive when it comes to the potential for medical marijuana to treat humans. We hope this study moves beyond the pilot stages so that it can assess a larger number of patients. This information has been provided by High Times and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.