MMJ May Damage MS Patients’ Ability to Think

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.

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4 Responses to MMJ May Damage MS Patients’ Ability to Think

  1. lindzzz says:

    I think that when taking any medicine it is best to understand the risks. I read in Time Magazine that cannabis use can bring on schizophrenia earlier if you are part of the very small percentage of people with a high risk of developing it. Perhaps it is best for some MS patients to not use cannabis, the only thing I can think of that could be used and not have any function on the brain is a topical cream for pain. People with MS should consider the side effects of both cannabis and their current pill medications, and consider which would be a better option for them. I think that if most people examined their collection of medicine, they would come to the conclusion that cannabis can be used as an alternative to almost everything they see.

  2. sbsdewb says:

    Have they ever taken the results of those taking oh let’s see methadone or oxycontin to see if impaired their cognitive thinking capabilites? Well medicine sometimes no matter man made or naturally grown marijuana can impair thinking but what of the full health benefits opposed to just cognitive thinking? Well sometimes to get a good thing you have to take a little bad with it. Which is worse?

  3. Medicator says:

    I think it’s important to have further studies that involve a larger patient participation before we draw any conclusions. I agree that other medications also cause mental impairment and yet there is no campaign to end it’s usage. Given the choice of mental impairment of extreme pain, I think I’ll go for the slight impairment.

  4. Yes! Very good points, sdsdewb & Medicator. Nearly all prescribed medications cause symptoms of impairment PLUS SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES: Heart attack, stroke, liver failure, kidney failure, ulcers, depression/possible suicide, stomach/digestion disorders AND THE LIST GOES ON. You hear every time you turn on the T.V. or radio, and yet it is still being prescribed, oh and don’t forget about the OVER-THE-COUNTER drugs. There is medical cannabis topical lotion cream that does not give you the high effect; however researchers have found that cannabidiol, or CBD, that actually reduces the THC effect in your body and mind (CannabisSearch Article: The Great CBD Hunt of 2011)