The MIND Program: How Cannabis Affects The Brain

It’s a good time for Cannabis in its recent history of strict regulation. Nations and states are relaxing such rules and laws. What is really interesting is that the rollback of legal scrutiny is not confined to the medical use of Cannabis alone. Indeed, quite many US states have made even recreational cannabis consumption legal. The best thing is that many Americans enjoy their Cannabis and cannabis-derived products for the right reasons. Cannabis is well-known for its large number of benefits that include:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • And insomnia amongst others

But there is this concern amongst the scientific community that the popularity and acceptance of Cannabis in the policy-making and public perception spheres outpace scientific research-based facts. So we need more data, is the perhaps unanimous verdict!

Weed and brain
Photo by Washarapol D BinYo Jundang, Courtesy of Pexels

Medical experts have accordingly taken the initiative and boosted and increased the intensity and pace of scientific research on the effects of using Cannabis and its constituent products. For example, researchers and scientists are using neuroimaging tools like functional MRI to better understand and convey the impact of Cannabis on a human being’s brain.

Research suggests that Cannabis is not the best thing for young, developing minds. People under 16 would be best if they steer clear of it as a source of recreation. People who consume Cannabis heavily for recreation in that age group have their behavioural, cognitive activities falling below par compared to their peer group. Some critical brain functions like attention, memory and the ability to make proper judgements in the mid-teens may get affected through heavy cannabis consumption. The findings of performance in driving simulations of such people suggest the same. Further taking Cannabis during the mid-teens also alters the brain’s white matter. We should remember that the neural fibres of white matter are of utmost importance for the different regions of the brain to communicate between themselves effectively.

The MIND Program

Effect of cannabis on brain
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As we mentioned earlier, some experts are keen to address the knowledge gap regarding long-term studies of cannabis consumption, including Cannabis consumed for medical benefits. One fruit of such intent is the MIND (Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery) program.

MIND took its first step forward by conducting a longitudinal observational individual study concerning patients who consume Cannabis for a wide variety of health issues. The study subjects are assessed and tested at the start of their interaction with medical marijuana, followed by further tests at 3, 6, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months of their consumption. The study found that people who took such medication fared better in cognitive activities, especially executive functions. This finding contradicts previous findings of poorer cognitive function when you consume heavy recreational cannabis vis-à-vis abstainers. Not only that, but the study subjects also reported improvements in several essential life and wellness aspects like:

  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • And the decreased need for conventional medicines

The mind of the scientists obviously turns to an explanation for such contrasting findings. Some experts accordingly opine that clarity of thought may result from alleviated symptoms and decreased use of opioids. Another factor to consider is that the average age of a person using Cannabis for medical purposes is significantly higher than the regular recreational marijuana consumer. Further, scientists cite preclinical data that indicates that Cannabis boosts the endocannabinoid system. This is more so if it has aged. The endocannabinoid system is a body system that plays a significant role in the regulation of crucial body functions that include:

  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • And appetite

The MIND initiative also runs programs with women affected by menopause and mensuration-related issues and even with veterans regarding their chronic pain woes. Additionally, MIND is also carrying out scientific studies on the effectiveness of the non-psychoactive cannabis component CBD in anxiety alleviation.

In the study mentioned above, patients will receive full-spectrum Cannabis rich in CBD content besides having terpenoids that add flavour and taste and may have individual effects. The other two groups will have just the CBD from the above source, and the third group of patients will have a placebo only.

After all, science is all about making an informed, more intelligent choice!