New research has found that chronic THC increases cerebral blood flow and increases the rate at which oxygen is metabolized.
Findings in a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology suggest that prolonged cannabis use improves oxygen and blood flow to the brain, reducing the risk of clots that lead to a stroke.
The number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, strokes, also called cerebrovascular accidents or CVAs, occur when part of the brain loses its blood supply. The lack of delivered oxygen and nutrients causes brain cells to begin dying within minutes, leading to muscle weakness, paralysis, speech issues, and other serious long-term problems.
Led by Dr. Francesca Filbey, director of Cognitive Neuroscience of Cognitive Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for BrainHealth, researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas compared the regional brain blood oxygenation and metabolism in chronic cannabis users and non-users.
They observed that longtime cannabis users showed higher global oxygen extraction fraction and cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen compared to non-users. These effects were dose dependent, meaning they increased with the more the cannabis consumed. The researchers also found that longtime cannabis users had greater blood flow in the putamen, an area of the brain associated with habit formation and reward learning.
The increased blood flow in the putamen, the researchers noted, may be related to the ability of one cannabinoid — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to dilate blood vessels or additional circulatory pathways being created.
Earlier research has shown that the “primary psychoactive ingredient present in cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – relaxes arterial walls resulting in lower blood pressure and increased blood flow to tissues,” the study’s introduction explains.