Professor suggests a little puff of weed will do you good… at least in ‘older brains’
While minimal amounts consumed daily might produce health benefits in older consumers, the story seems to be different for younger users.
Original Article by Angela Stelmakowich
It seems that only a single puff of cannabis daily “is necessary to produce significant benefit” in older brains, suggests a member of the Ohio Governor’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee.
Moderation looks to be the best approach for cannabis consumers as they get older, Gary Wenk, Ph.D., an emeritus professor of behavioural neuroscience, writes in an article published this week in Psychology Today.
Whether cannabis choosing to partake turns out to be potentially positive or negative for health seems at least partly associated with age, Wenk suggests.He emphasizes that like any other drug, cannabis is not always beneficial or always harmful. “Early in life, the developing brain cannot tolerate manipulation of the cannabis receptors on its stem cells. If stem cells are exposed to cannabis, normal development of the brain is impaired and the consequences may last into adulthood,” Wenk contends.
Compare that to later in life, when he maintains that weed “may stimulate stem cell activity and protect the brain from inflammation.”
But a whole lot of weed is not required to realize health benefits, Wenk contends, noting “only a single puff each day is necessary to produce significant benefit.”
The age of first exposure to weed appears to be very important. For example, the prenatal brain is very vulnerable to the presence of cannabis, Wenk writes, citing results from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study.
“This study suggests that prenatal cannabis exposure and its correlated factors are associated with greater risk for psychopathology during middle childhood,” notes the study abstract. Use during pregnancy “should be discouraged.”
Concern over use is salient during adolescence as well, Wenk suggests. “Overall, the available evidence indicates that the adolescent brain is still vulnerable to exogenous cannabinoids,” he notes, adding that “essentially, cannabis alters the normal trajectory of brain maturation, although the consequences seem to be less severe than those of prenatal exposure.”
There is less concern about cannabis use during middle to old age, with some studies indicating that regular cannabis use has little impact on cognitive performance in older chronic pain patients.
Although there is no definitive answer regarding whether or not the effect of cannabis is age-dependent, Wenk wonders what role neurogenesis may play.
“Stem cells undergo neurogenesis and give birth to new neurons every day,” he writes. While critical for the developing brain from prenatal to adolescence, “neurogenesis begins to decline around middle age and is nearly absent by the time you are ready to retire,” perhaps because of “increased levels of brain inflammation” that comes with ageing.
“Research in my laboratory has demonstrated that a daily low dose of cannabis can significantly reduce brain inflammation,” he adds.