While about 16 percent of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients smoke marijuana to ease the bladder problems, emotional issues, insomnia, pain, spasticity, and tremors associated with their disease there’s a possibility that the cannabis which helps soothe their physical complaints could be harming their cognitive brain functions.
According to a recent report aired on NPR, researchers in Canada were curious about how cannabis really affects those with MS, since the disease causes difficulty with thinking already, and marijuana isn’t exactly known for promoting mental acuity. To explore this, they compared the cognitive functions of MS patients who often use pot.
The study found that weed smokers had slightly worse results on tests of executive function, thinking speed, and working memory among other cognitive tasks, than their marijuana-free peers. They also had worse results when tested for the ability to think clearly, with 64 percent of those study having poor overall cognitive performance as opposed to 32 percent of the non-pot-smokers.
Specifically, the research team from the University of Toronto wrote:
Given that approximately 40 percent to 60 percent of patients with MS are cognitively impaired to begin with, any drug that may add to this burden gives cause for concern.
To be fair, this study was extremely small with only twenty-five people in each group, so the results may not translate into the larger MS-afflicted population, but they do suggest that patients using marijuana for relief of symptoms should consider the possible effects on their brain functions, especially if they already have a neurological condition that already affects cognition.
The work was funded by the Multiple Scleroses Society of Canada, and the results of the study appear in the current issue of the journal Neurology.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada funded the work. The results appear in the current issue of the journal Neurology.