Mental Health and Cognition in Older Cannabis Users: a Review

  • Blanca E. Vacaflor McGill University
  • Olivier Beauchet Sir Mortimer B. Davis–Jewish General Hospital, McGill University
  • G. Eric Jarvis McGill University
  • Alessandra Schiavetto McGill University
  • Soham Rej McGill University
Keywords: aged, frail elderly, cannabis, marijuana smoking, marijuana use, marijuana abuse, medical marijuana

Abstract

Background

The impact of cannabis use on mental health and cognition in older adults remains unclear. With the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, physicians will need up-to-date infor­mation about the mental and cognitive effects of cannabis use in this specific population.

Method

A narrative review was conducted to summarize the literature on mental health and cognitive effects of cannabis use in older adults using Medline (OvidSP).

Results

A total of 16 studies were identified, including nine cross-sectional studies on mental health comorbidities reported by older cannabis users. The self-reported prevalence of mental and substance use disorders is approximately two to three times higher in older adults who report past-year cannabis use, compared to older adults who report using more than one year ago or never using. The remaining seven clinical trials found that short-term, low-dose medical cannabis was generally well-tolerated in older adults without prior serious mental illness. However, mental/cognitive adverse effects were not systematically assessed.

Conclusion

Although preliminary findings suggests that low-dose, short-term medical cannabis does not carry significant risk of serious mental health and cognitive adverse effects in older adults without prior psychiatric history, epidemiological studies find a correlation between past-year cannabis use and poor mental health outcomes in community-dwelling older adults. These findings may indicate that longer term cannabis use in this population is detrimental to their mental health, al­though a direct causal link has not been established. Larger, longitudinal studies on the safety of medical cannabis in older adults are needed.

Author Biographies

Blanca E. Vacaflor, McGill University

Geri-PARTy Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, Jewish General Hospital

Olivier Beauchet, Sir Mortimer B. Davis–Jewish General Hospital, McGill University

Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, McGill University, Dr. Joseph Kaufmann Chair in Geriatric Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

G. Eric Jarvis, McGill University

Culture and Mental Health Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Jewish General Hospital

Alessandra Schiavetto, McGill University

Geri-PARTy Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, Jewish General Hospital

Soham Rej, McGill University

Geri-PARTy Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, Jewish General Hospital

Published
2020-09-01
How to Cite
Vacaflor, B. E., Beauchet, O., Jarvis, G. E., Schiavetto, A., & Rej, S. (2020). Mental Health and Cognition in Older Cannabis Users: a Review. Canadian Geriatrics Journal, 23(3), 237-244. https://doi.org/10.5770/cgj.23.399
Section
Systematic Reviews/Meta-analysis