Does Long-Term Cannabis Use Affect Cognitive Health and Mental Well-being?


The debate around cannabis and its impact on mental health continues to be a complex and often controversial subject. According to Harvard Health, individuals who have engaged in long-term cannabis use may experience a decline in IQ, with an average decrease of 5.5 points from childhood, and may also face deficits in learning and processing speed. This cognitive impairment appears to escalate with the frequency of cannabis use, hinting at a possible causal relationship.

A systematic review conducted by the University of Toronto, gathering studies from 1995 to 2020, raised concerns about the negative behavioral consequences of recreational marijuana use. The findings suggested that early and heavy use, particularly before the age of 16, could impair cognitive and behavioral functions related to the frontal cortex, including memory, attention, and judgment, as detailed by Cornell University.

Anxiety disorders, the most prevalent mental health conditions in the U.S., have been one of the top conditions for which medical cannabis is prescribed, especially since its inclusion in the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program in 2019. However, the use of cannabis for treating anxiety remains contentious. While some studies indicate potential benefits, a shortage of rigorous, experimentally controlled studies leaves room for skepticism about its efficacy and safety, as discussed in a research brief.

The physical health benefits of cannabis, such as blood pressure reduction and anti-inflammatory effects, as cited by a Johnson & Wales University study, add another layer to the ongoing discussion. Nonetheless, potential users should be cautious, especially if they are using it as a coping mechanism, have a history of mental health issues, or are heavy users, as advised by the National Academy of Science in 2017 and echoed by Student Health and Counseling Services.

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Regarding the changing perceptions, there’s a noted decrease in stigma, particularly among older adults, leading to a heightened interest in medical marijuana. This shift has been significant enough to merit attention by Harvard Health, reflecting societal changes in the view towards cannabis use.

Given these perspectives, it becomes clear that further research is essential to understand fully the implications of cannabis use on mental health. With legalization trends increasing and medical use expanding, the need for clear, scientifically grounded information is more crucial than ever.

Cognitive Effects of Cannabis Use

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