Cannabis is increasingly accessible in the United States for recreational and/or medical use. Additionally, the Baby Boomer birth cohort exhibits a greater prevalence of cannabis use than prior generations of older adults. Past research has most frequently addressed the potential cognitive effects of cannabis use in populations of adolescents and young adults. Some of these studies suggest that cannabis use is chronically associated with worse performance on tasks of verbal working memory and executive functioning, however, due to methodological variation and a wide variety of potential confounds including duration of abstinence and frequency of use, results are still inconclusive. Through use of a longitudinal, publicly available secondary dataset, the Health and Retirement Study, immediate, delayed, and working memory were evaluated in older adults who have used cannabis within the past year, within their lifetime but not the past year, and those who have never used. Uncontrolled, one-way ANOVAs and controlled ANCOVAs were used to examine these effects. When controlling for age, gender, education, and race, current frequent users demonstrated significantly worse immediate memory performance than past and non-users. Results suggest that greater than weekly cannabis use may result in attentional and short-term memory deficits. Further, these effects may be mitigated by sustained abstinence over time. Certain limitations including sample size and measures of cannabis use warrant future studies to replicate and build upon these findings.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
College of Sciences
Maynard, Madison H., "Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Immediate, Delayed, and Working Memory Performance Among Older Adults" (2021). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 995.