Cannabis users show higher global oxygen extraction fraction and higher cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen than those who don’t use cannabis. On the top of that, blood flow in the putamen part of the brain that is responsible for habit formation and reward learning is also better in cannabis users than non-users.
This is the finding of a new study out of the University of Texas at Dallas, and what it means is that cannabis enhances the blood and therefore the oxygen flow to the brain. As a result, cannabis users’ brains get more oxygen and might have less of a risk to suffer a stroke than non-users.
The research was run by Dr Francesca Filbey, who is a director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for BrainHealth as an Associate Professor at the UT Dallas.
Dr Filbey’s study involved 101 non-cannabis users and 74 daily users. All of the users have used cannabis more than 5000 times in their lifetime and have been using the herb daily for the last 60 days prior to the study.
Except for the very last 3 days, as the participants had to stop using it for 72 hours before the study started so the researchers could eliminate acute effects of cannabis.
“Past marijuana research has shown changes in cognitive functions such as memory and executive functioning. Our study seeks to understand the possible neurophysiological mechanisms that may drive these cognitive changes,”
The purpose of the research was to determine the association between prolonged cannabis use and the following neurophysiological indicators:
- global and regional resting cerebral blood flow (CBF),
- oxygen extraction fraction (OEF), and
- cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2).
Before this research, the effects of cannabis use on neurophysiological factors have been predominantly measured using the first method listed, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and as a result, some previous studies have even found that cannabis smoking may increase the risk of stroke. Dr Filbley went further and the researchers found that it is actually the opposite and cannabis may reduce the likeliness of stroke as cannabis users had greater global OEF and CMRO2 compared with nonusers. That means increased blood and oxygen supply to the brain and helps to avoid stroke, which is a cerebral vascular accident that occurs as a result of impeded blood supply to the brain.
With 17 million strokes every year resulting in 6.5 million deaths, it is a leading cause of death and disability around the world. 1 in 6 people will experience a stroke in their lifetime, so the news of cannabis helping to decrease the chance of stroke is extremely exciting.
A healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet has been the advice to avoid stroke and now, enjoying good quality cannabis may be added to that list soon.
The cannabinoid that is mostly responsible for this increased blood flow is
Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that relaxes the arterial walls that lower blood pressure and increases blood flow to tissues.
This is another potential benefit that cannabis may have for users, most especially for seniors, who can hugely benefit from the therapeutic effects of cannabis.
These studies are vitally important while they are still rare in the US and actively being held back by Attorney General, Jeff Sessions via limiting cannabis production for research.