Is Marihuana a Nootropic?
It is not surprising that some nootropic users are also interested in marijuana use. Marijuana contains cannabinoids, which are actually substances that are naturally produced by the human body through the neurotransmitter anandamide, compound that stimulates the basal ganglia and cerebral cortex: psychologically speaking, executive control, emotions regulation, and high cognitive functions. Unfortunately, most of the evidence we have on hand comes from anecdotal reports available in different internet forums. There is a clear lack of understanding about the impact of cannabis in the brain, and the political issues that affect impartial research does not make the matter any easier.
Thus, while we have Harvard reports that argue that cognition is unaffected even by heavy marijuana use , we also have contradictory results that indicate that, regardless of the neurobiological effects, the psychosocial consequences of marihuana use affect indirectly our cognitive capacities heavily . It has been shown an association between regular cannabis exposure and alterations of human brain morphology, but it is unclear what do these changes really mean , leaving the question open to individual experience.
Positive effects include relaxation, euphoria, altered space-time perception, appetite stimulation, enhancement of senses (visual, auditory, and olfactory),analgesic effects., and creative thinking. Furthermore, studies have linked cannabinoids to increased amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a substance that protects brain cells and promotes the growth of new ones. Since new cell growth slows or stops during aging, increasing BDNF could potentially slow the decline in cognitive functions.
Negative effects, though, can include mood disorders, withdrawal symptoms, memory impairment , and even neurotoxicity . Additionally, it has to be said that there is an important body of evidence that indicates that cannabis use may worsen the occurrence of manic symptoms in those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and may also act as a causal risk factor in the incidence of manic symptoms.
The evidence is clearly conflicting, and the differences between casual and heavy users are important, yet not taking into account in multiple studies. In conclusion, the empirical evidence is still too tiny to consider marihuana as a nootropic, yet also too conflicting to disregard it as a harmful substance. Use it at your own risk if you are experiencing positive results, yet we urge prudent moderation.
For a comprehensive review of cannabis and cognitive dysfunction, please refer to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3221171/.