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The Medical Minute: Neurodegeneration, Focus, and the Snowballing Recognition of Cannabis’ Benefits

Published on May 13, 2014 · Last updated July 28, 2020

We’ve known for a while now the amazing medical potential of cannabis, and the most recent findings in marijuana research may not be news to you. What’s important, however, is that these studies are beginning to substantiate what we in the cannabis community already know from our personal experiences. Who knows how long political officials will keep using the "there’s not enough science" card, but as more reputable scientists and medical professionals speak publicly about the plant’s healing potential, we take steps closer to opening access to patients nationwide. As long as we keep passing the information along, there’s only reason to be optimistic about marijuana’s future going forward.

1. Cannabis May Help the Aging Brain

In a twist of irony, the substance so many accuse of killing brain cells is actually being explored as a neuroprotectant for patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases. New research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology confirms the finding that THC protects brain cells, stimulates their growth, and may even prevent the loss of dopamine neurons. The key, researchers say, lies in the body’s endocannabinoid system where cannabis compounds bind to receptors and result in a variety of therapeutic effects such as improved cell communication in patients treating neurodegenerative diseases. 

2. Cannabis Is a Correlate, Not a Cause, of Inability to Focus

“Adolescent substance use has been associated with poorer neuropsychological functioning, but it is unclear if deficits predate or follow the onset of use.” This was the question researchers at the University of California set out to answer in a study of 175 adolescents (age 12 to 14) who had never used cannabis. The adolescents that scored lower on cognitive inhibition tests (or the mind's ability to tune out stimuli that are irrelevant to the task/process at hand) were found to use substances including marijuana more frequently and in greater quantities by age 17 and 18. These findings bolster the idea that cannabis is not the cause of the cognitive deficits, but rather a result of them. 

3. American Academy of Neurology Recognizes Marijuana Benefits

After hearing all the hubbub about medical marijuana’s efficacy in treating many neurological disorders, the American Academy of Neurology analyzed studies from 1948 to 2013 on cannabis and a gamut of conditions and symptoms including multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, and epilepsy. It goes without being said that they have seen the light and have found cannabis extracts an effective medicine for many neurological symptoms. The results may come as no surprise to activists who tune in to today’s cannabis studies, but it never ceases to excite us when a large medical organization recognizes what the government fails to acknowledge.

Image Sources: Roberto Matta's Theorie de I ArbreDisasters of Mysticism, Bringing Light Without Pain, Ocean de la Nature

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Bailey Rahn
Bailey Rahn
Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.
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