Marijuana May Affect Intellectual Skills Of MS Patients

Medical marijuana has continuously been put under debate regarding its benefits. Some MS patients who consider the pain relieving effects of marijuana to be quite beneficial find it quite essential for their day to day life. But recent research may somehow provide some evidence that such benefits may also come with some negative consequences.

According to Canadian researchers, marijuana use among MS patients may have some apparent negative effects on their thinking skills. The researchers conducted a study between two groups of MS patients, with each group comprising of 25 people each. The ages of the participants were between 18 and 65, with all of them suffering from MS. One group used marijuana for pain relief while the other group reporting no marijuana use for many years. Urine tests were conducted in order to confirm the use or non-use of the said drug among the two groups.

Both groups were evenly matched between them so that their would be no significant differences that may be attributed to age, gender, level of education, IQ before diagnosis, level of disability with MS and the duration of time that patients had the disease.

Of the MS patients in the group that used marijuana for pain relief, a total of 76 percent reported smoking the drug on a daily basis. 24 percent reported weekly use of marijuana while one person reported using it once every two weeks. All in all, the participants in the said group had used the drug for an average of 26 years.

As part of the study, both groups were tested for their cognitive skills. The results of the test showed that those who used marijuana performed significantly worse than the non-user group when it comes to attention span, speed of thinking, executive function and visual perception of spatial relationships between objects. On one of the tests of information processing speed, the marijuana users scored about one third lower than those who didn’t use the said drug. Those who used marijuana were also twice as likely to be considered as globally cognitively impaired. This is defined as impairment on two or more aspects of intellectual functioning.

According to Anthony Feinstein, MPhil, MD, PhD and the study author, “Given that about 40 to 60 percent of MS patients have problems with cognitive function to begin with, any drug that may add to this burden is cause for concern. This study provides empirical evidence that prolonged use of inhaled or ingested marijuana in MS patients is associated with poorer cognitive performance, and these effects have to be weighed against any possible benefit of using marijuana for medicinal purposes.”

The study was conducted with the help of Sunnybrook Health Services Center and the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. It was also supported by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The said research was published in the March, 2011 print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Source: American Academy of Neurology. “Marijuana use may hurt intellectual skills in multiple sclerosis patients.” ScienceDaily 28 March 2011. 29 March 2011 <http://www.sciencedaily.comĀ­/releases/2011/03/110328161840.htm>

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