The team, from The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, found that patients with bipolar I (BD I) disorder who used marijuana performed better on tests of attention, processing speed, and working memory than other BD 1 patients, reports Mark Cowen at News Medical.
"These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders," said lead researcher Raphael Braga.
"However, it is also possible that these findings may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs," Braga said.
In other words, it's possible, at least according to Braga, that the higher-functioning patients self-selected due to the challenge of finding weed.
The results came from a study of 200 BD I patients, 50 of whom used cannabis, or, in the medical parlance, under which almost everything seems to be pathologized as a "disorder," "Cannabis Use Disorder," or, as they cutely call it, "CUD." (Sigh...)
All of the patients participating in the study underwent clinical evaluations and completed a battery of tests measuring neurocognitive functioning.
There were no significant differences between patients who used cannabis ("suffered from CUD") and those who didn't, regarding age, race, or education, the researchers wrote in Psychiatry Research.
But, according to the researchers, patients with "Cannabis Use Disorder" were more likely to have a history of psychosis than those who didn't toke up, at 82 percent versus 67.3 percent.
But patients "with CUD" (dammit, I mean pot smokers) had significantly better attention, processing speed/set-shifting, and working memory than those without, putting the lie to the tired old stereotypes of "burnouts" and "stoners."
"These analyses indicate an interesting pattern suggesting superior neurocognitive performance among bipolar patients with comorbid CUD when compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use," Braga and team concluded. "Moreover, this cognitive advantage is noted in spite of evidence of a more severe clinical course."
"We hope that the results from this study will help guide and encourage future large studies and help further elucidate the multifaceted associations and possible impact of cannabis use in bipolar disorder," the researchers wrote.