Marijuana helps the brain? That’s no dope

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Need a reason to be high on life? Here’s one: Scientists believe that elements of marijuana actually may be good for aging brains.

How’s that for a twist? We all have believed that cannabis kills brain cells, not creates them. Well, who’s the dope now?

Just in case you haven’t heard (or caught a whiff of) the news, Ohio State University researchers have found that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, protects the brain against inflammation that might translate to better memory late in life. Such research could help pave the way to development of a legal drug that might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

But of course the research does not necessarily suggest we break out the bong. The new drug’s properties would resemble those of THC. But it would not share its high-producing effects.

Notes Gary Wenk, professor of psychology at Ohio State and principal investigator of the research:

“Could people smoke marijuana to prevent Alzheimer’s disease if the disease is in their family? We’re not saying that, but it might actually work. What we are saying is it appears that a safe, legal substance that mimics those important properties of marijuana can work on receptors in the brain to prevent memory impairments in aging. So that’s really hopeful.”

As a result of the findings, THC joins a whole other class of ill-reputed chemicals—nicotine, alcohol and caffeine—that, in moderation, have shown some signs of bettering brain health.

Here are Wenk’s comments: “It’s not that everything immoral is good for the brain. It’s just that there are some substances that millions of people for thousands of years have used in billions of doses, and we’re noticing there’s a little signal above all the noise.”

Mind-blowing, wouldn't you agree?
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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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