Skip to main content

THC Associated With Cognitive Improvements In Patients With Advanced Cancer

Cannabis leaf plant

Patients who are battling cancer experience any number of negative symptoms, including symptoms related to cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment can come in many forms, including but not limited to impaired memory, reduced concentration, slower information processing, and/or reduced executive function.

Various treatments exist for cognitive impairment including pharmaceutical drugs. Cognitive remediation is another option, in which the patient learns compensatory strategies and methods to supplement their cognitive functioning.

Medical cannabis is used by many cancer patients, including varieties of medical cannabis that are high in THC. According to a recent study, oral THC dosing is associated with cognitive improvements among cancer patients. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Hjørring, Denmark: Cancer patients who take daily doses of oral THC (dronabinol) exhibit improved cognitive performance and they experience reductions in pain and depression, according to clinical data published in the journal Palliative Medicine Reports.

Danish researchers assessed the use of prescription dronabinol in six patients with advanced cancer. Subjects consumed oral THC daily for two weeks.

Investigators reported, “[T]reating palliative cancer patients with dronabinol for 14 days … seems to improve cognition in different domains, including in speed of mental processing, nonverbal and in-the-moment reasoning, as well as short-term memory and working memory.”

The study’s findings are consistent with those of others reporting cannabis-associated cognitive improvements in patients with cancerbipolar disordersHIV, and chronic pain.

Researchers also reported that THC dosing was associated with reductions in patients’ pain, depression, and fatigue. Some patients also reduced their use of other prescription medications during treatment – a finding that is consistent with numerous other studies.

The study’s authors concluded: “[I]n this group of patients, the short-term use of dronabinol did not impair cognition. Rather, the treatment was associated with improved cognition, especially in the processing and reasoning domains. The study also found relief of pain, fatigue, and depressive symptoms, which may have had an indirect beneficial effect on cognitive functions. … The study results suggest dronabinol may have a beneficial effect on different parameters for patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care.”

Dronabinol (aka Marinol) is a Schedule III prescription drug in the United States.

Full text of the study, “Impact of low dose dronabinol therapy on cognitive function in cancer patients receiving palliative care: A care-series intervention study,” appears in Palliative Medicine Reports.