Cannabis (Marijuana) use and brain functioning

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Many young people use marijuana for a variety of reasons.

While de-criminalized in many states, the use of cannabis is not without risks. For example, a previous post discussed the negative impact of cannabis on PTSD.

A recent study looked at impact of cannabis use and intelligence.

What were the findings? (1)

  • 1037 individuals born in New Zealand were periodically assessed between ages 7 and 45 years for cannabis use and dependence and with intelligence quotient (IQ) testing (1).
  • At age 45 years, the mean decline in IQ points from childhood to adulthood was greater among long-term users of cannabis (5.5 points) compared with nonusers of cannabis (0.7 points) (1)
  • Deficits were noted in processing speed, learning, and memory among adults with long-term cannabis use relative to their childhood assessments (1).

Are there studies on frequency of cannabis use and brain functioning? (2)

  • The use of cannabis 4 or more times per month may impair brain functioning (2).
  • In this small study, students suing cannabis demonstrated poorer verbal learning (p<.01), verbal working memory (p<.05), and attention accuracy (p<.01) compared to non users (2).
  • This might translate to more time studying or less information learned, mistakes, more frustration and angst with school work; and poor academic performance.

Other thoughts:

  • Some people may report cannabis use helping with anxiety, depression, or insomnia when it may just be masking the withdrawal symptoms caused by previous cannabis use.
  • Research shows an association between cannabis use and several medical, cognitive, functional, and psychosocial problems(3).
  • Short-term risks of cannabis use include impaired short-term memory motor dis-coordination, altered judgment, paranoia, and psychosis (4).
  • Other long-term effects of cannabis use include addiction, poor educational outcomes, diminished quality of life, increased risk psychotic disorders, injuries, motor vehicle collisions, and suicide (4,5).
  • Further research is needed on the risk and benefits of specific types and amount cannabis and mental health.
  • It is possible that illegally obtained cannabis may have other harmful substances added to it.

What are some useful resources regarding cannabis?

Treatment Facilities in the Columbus, Ohio area:

 

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Resources for mental health support can be found here.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Meier MH, et. al. Long-Term Cannabis Use and Cognitive Reserves and Hippocampal Volume in Midlife. Am J Psychiatry. 2022 May;179(5):362-374. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.21060664. Epub 2022 Mar 8. PMID: 35255711; PMCID: PMC9426660.
  2. Hanson KL, et al. Longitudinal study of cognition among adolescent marijuana users over three weeks of abstinence. Addict Behav. 2010 November ; 35(11): 970–976. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.06.012.
  3. Crean  RD , Tapert SF , Minassian  A , Macdonald  K , Crane  NA , Mason  BJ .  Effects of chronic, heavy cannabis use on executive functions.  J Addict Med. 2011;5(1):9-15. doi:1097/ADM.0b013e31820cdd57
  4. Volkow  ND , Baler RD , Compton  WM , Weiss  SRB .  Adverse health effects of marijuana use.  N Engl J Med. 2014;370(23):2219-2227. doi:1056/NEJMra1402309
  5. Carvalho  AF , Stubbs B , Vancampfort  D ,  et al.  Cannabis use and suicide attempts among 86,254 adolescents aged 12-15 years from 21 low- and middle-income countries.  Eur Psychiatry. 2019;56:8-13. doi:1016/j.eurpsy.2018.10.006

Adjusting to college

Starting college or returning to campus can be exciting but also stressful.
A previous post discusses strategies for a successful transition to college.
A recent article by the JED foundation suggests the following strategies (1):
Take Care of Yourself (1)
• Find a lounge or café if you like a cozy place to hang out.
• If you know that a morning workout helps you manage stress, find out how early the gym opens.
• Between classes or activities, try to leave yourself enough time to enjoy a moment of respite before jumping into the next thing. It could be just sitting on a bench in the quad and taking some good, deep breaths.
• Carve out some time every week to talk to someone you trust and can be open with.
• Establish small rituals for yourself in the mornings and evenings that help you reset, such as writing in a journal, taking stock of your schedule and tasks, listening to music, or taking a walk outside.
Get Connected (1)
• One of the most powerful ways to take care of your mental health is to form meaningful connections at school. Examples, including keeping in touch with friends, making new friends, student organizations, recreational leagues, volunteer organizations, affinity groups, etc.
Find your community at college (1)
• Most schools have comprehensive lists of clubs and organizations on their website that you can look at even before you get to campus.
• Talk to staff in the Student Life or Student Activities office. They can often help you find social activities as well as information about internships, leadership roles, work-study programs, and more.
Look at the Big Picture of Mental Health (1)
• While speaking with a mental health professional can be extremely valuable when you are really struggling, it is important to also remember things you can do to promote your mental health—like getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, engaging with others, mindfulness practices, etc.

Other thoughts:

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

If you would like to be notified about future monthly posts, enter your email and click the subscribe button above.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented. Permission to use/cite this article: contact patel.2350@osu.edu

Reference: 1. https://jedfoundation.org/resource/going-to-campus-mindfully/

Brief activity vs relaxation breaks for energy

There are times when students might need to study for long periods. In that situation, some students might struggle to maintain their energy levels.
Research has shown benefits of exercise for anxiety (1)
A recent study looked at effectiveness of breaks during a 4 hour learning session (2).

Who was studied?
Blasche and colleagues studied 66 students, mean age 22.5 years, enrolled in two different university classes of 4‐hr duration (2).

What was measured?
Fatigue and vigor were assessed immediately before, immediately after, and 20 minutes after the break (2).

How long were the breaks? (2)

  • The breaks were 6 minutes long.
  • These breaks were after 45 minutes of a lecture.

What type of breaks did the participants get?

  • Exercise break 6 minutes: 3 min of aerobic exercise including running on the spot and a variety of jumping exercises that were alternated every 30 s followed by 3 min of a variety of stretching exercises (2).
  • Relaxation break consisted of a 6‐min guided body scan exercise. Individuals were instructed to focus their attention on various body parts and functions such as feet, legs, arms, and breathing and to observe the sensations arising in those regions (2).
  • Unstructured rest break, individuals could do what they wanted as long as they remained seated at their desks (2).

What were the results?

  • The main findings were that a brief, 6–7‐min relaxation technique or physical activity, decreased fatigue beyond the level of a normal rest break.
  • These breaks also increased in vigor, which could improve work engagement and productivity (2).

What are some caveats?

  • This is a small study and further study is needed.
  • Brief exercise may not be suitable for everyone (check with your healthcare provider).
  • Not everyone might benefit from this approach.
  • Some students might notice immediate stress relief benefits of yoga.
  • Other strategies to improve academic performance can be found here.

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist
If you would like to be notified about future monthly posts, enter your email and click the subscribe button above.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented. Permission to use/cite this article: contact patel.2350@osu.edu

References:
1. Stonerock, Gregory L. et al. “Exercise as Treatment for Anxiety: Systematic Review and Analysis.” Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine 49.4 (2015): 542–556. PMC. Web. 9 May 2018.
2. Blasche, G., Szabo, B., Wagner-Menghin, M., Ekmekcioglu, C., & Gollner, E. (2018). Comparison of rest-break interventions during a mentally demanding task. Stress and health : journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 34(5), 629–638. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.2830