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Can marijuana actually make you smarter? Well, yeah, probably so, man. But if you’re bipolar, you now have some actual scientific research to back you up in that belief.
A recent study suggests that some patients with bipolar disorder who use marijuana actually performed better on certain tests involving cognitive functioning, reports Jessica Ward Jones, M.D., at PsychCentral.
Dr. Ole Andreassen of Oslo University Hospital in Norway studied 133 patients with bipolar disorder and 140 with schizophrenia. The patients were questioned about prior drug use; over the previous six months, 18 bipolar patients and 23 schizophrenia patients had used marijuana.
All of the participants then underwent several tests to assess neurocognitive function, including the logical memory test, the color-word interference set-shifting subset test, the digit span forward test, the verbal fluency test, and learning tests.
The bipolar patients who used cannabis performed better in verbal fluency than bipolar patients who did not use cannabis.
They appeared to perform slightly better on the learning test, as well, although researchers said these results were not statistically significant.
Marijuana, however, seemed to worsen function in the schizophrenic participants, particularly with regard to focused attention, logical memory-learning, and logical memory-recall.
“Both neuropsychological test performance and individual effects of substance use can be regarded as endophenotypes, mediating factors between the neurobiological substrate and the expressed phenotype,” Andreassen almost impenetrably writes.
What the good doctor means is that although some have speculated that a biological relationship exists between bipolar illness and schizophrenia, Andreassen’s results provide evidence to suggest that the two illnesses may be separate disease processes.
The doctor was quick to pledge allegiance to conventional wisdom, saying he didn’t recommend that bipolar patients smoke pot (despite the fact that it apparently makes them smarter!).
“The evidence linking drug use/abuse with poor outcome in severe mental disorder must still be decisive for clinical advice,” Dr. Andreassen warned.
Dr. Andreassen’s results were published in the November 2009 issue of Psychological Medicine.