Exploring the Complex Impacts of Long-Term Cannabis Use: What Does the Research Say?


The long-term use of cannabis and its cognitive effects, particularly in midlife, have been a subject of extensive research and discussion. A Harvard Medical School study suggests a notable decline in IQ among long-term cannabis users, averaging a 5.5-point decrease from childhood. This is accompanied by deficits in learning and processing speed, especially in comparison to non-users. The data indicates that the frequency of cannabis use correlates with the extent of cognitive impairment, hinting at a potential causative relationship.

Despite these findings, the debate about cannabis’s effects is far from settled. For instance, the Cornell University research highlights a range of behavioral impacts of marijuana use. These findings are echoed in a systematic review by the University of Toronto, which examined 124 studies conducted between 1995 and 2020, focusing on recreational marijuana use and its effects on mental health and functioning.

However, it’s important to consider that using marijuana is not without its risks. As noted in Columbia Magazine, marijuana can be addictive, and moderation is key, similar to how some people might enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

In terms of potential benefits, a study by JCI Insight, mentioned by Johnson & Wales University, found that CBD, a compound in cannabis, may lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Furthermore, cannabis contains varying amounts of the potentially therapeutic compound cannabidiol (CBD), which may help alleviate anxiety, as discussed in a University of Washington report.

Yet, the legal distinction between marijuana and hemp is crucial to understand. By law, marijuana refers to cannabis plants containing more than 0.3% THC by weight, whereas hemp contains 0.3% or less. This difference is significant as hemp products are less likely to cause an intoxicating effect. Marijuana, often high in THC, is typically sought after by recreational users for its flowers.

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Exploring the Complex Impacts of Long-Term Cannabis Use: What Does the Research Say?

In summary, while there are indications of both potential health benefits and risks associated with cannabis use, the full spectrum of its effects, especially long-term, remains a subject of ongoing research and debate.

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