Mental Health and Cognition in Older Cannabis Users: a Review
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.
A narrative review was conducted to summarize the literature on mental health and cognitive effects of cannabis use in older adults using Medline (OvidSP).
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.
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.