Health + Wellness

Does Marijuana Use Increase Alzheimer’s Risk?

alzheimer's risk factors

Bad news for Mary Jane enthusiasts. According to a study, pot could restrict blood flow to the brain, which in turn, may affect your memory and ability to reason.

According to research recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, brain scans of nearly 1,000 past and present marijuana smokers – collected from nine outpatient neuropsychiatric clinics across the United States, where patients sought treatment for complex psychological or neurological problems — revealed abnormally low blood flow throughout their brains, when compared to a smaller control group of 92 people – who had never used pot.

“The differences were astonishing,” according to lead researcher Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and founder of the U.S.-based Amen Clinics. “Virtually every area of the brain we measured was lower in blood flow and activity in the marijuana smokers than in the healthy group.”

According to Amen, the findings were particularly disturbing in the hippocampus of marijuana users. “The hippocampus is the gateway to memory, to get memories into long-term storage,” he shares. “That area distinguished healthy people from pot smokers better than any other area of the brain.”

“We’ve also seen it with people who don’t smoke, who get marijuana in cookies or ingest it in other ways,” says Amen, cautioning those who may also be ingesting the drug.

RELATED: Is Marijuana Medicine? The Good & Bad

Using SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) to track blood flow throughout the body, researchers discovered that 982 patients in the database had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder — described as a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, and harmful consequences on one’s health, as well as their work or their family life.

The significance Amen reveals, is the “growing lore in our country is that marijuana is innocuous, it’s good medicine and it should be legalized.” He continues, “This research directly challenges that notion.”

As for that “glowing lore,” currently twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form, primarily for medical purposes. Those states include:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

While the study doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship nor does it provide

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