Psychedelics late in life may impact brain function

seniors and psychedelics

Seniors have been consuming cannabis at more rapid rates than ever, and for good reason. Mounting research supports that those aged 65 and up experience an increased quality of life with the proper weed. One of the most recently published collections of data sought to understand whether cannabis, LSD, and other hallucinogens would impact cognitive decline.

Data researchers used information gathered from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Study. MIDUS collected information from almost 3500 English speakers in the contiguous 48 U.S. states in three waves. Research scientists honed in on whether people used cannabis, LSD, peyote, MDMA, mescaline, or other hallucinogens within the last 12 months.

The third wave of MIDUS measured episodic memory and executive function with a brief test of adult cognition by telephone (BTACT). Participants engaged in tests like free recall of words, number series completion, timed counting tasks, and other approved tests. The results from these tests were measured against standard deviations of the entire wave three response sample.

“The current findings revealed that psychedelic use was associated with improved cognitive function, assessed by executive function, partially supporting our hypothesis; however, the same association was not evident with episodic memory,” the study reads.

Survey results also showed that those who consumed psychedelics had fewer depressive symptoms. This is even more promising for cognitive function in later years, as experiencing depression has been associated with dementia later in life.

Limitations were there, like the fact that understanding the true impact of psychedelic therapy requires a lengthy integration process. A one-time survey doesn’t track this trajectory appropriately. The vast age range also leaves the window open for generalizability bias, which has been known to inflate preliminary study results.

Another limitation was a hesitancy to try psychedelics. Only eight percent of participants had used psychedelics. A small percentage (1.5) refused to respond about psychedelic usage at all. Limitations aside, there was information gleaned from the data analysis.

There were a few covariates to consider when digesting this data. The analysis also considered age, gender, race, marital status, education, and employment. Researchers clocked any chronic conditions, tobacco, and alcohol use, too. With all of this combined, a statistical analysis of tripping and cognitive function came into focus.

Study authors point to these results as a blossoming research lane for those seeking reprieve for seniors battling depression, isolation, or hopelessness. Perhaps the compounds could even stop these things before they start. The only way to know is with continued research.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.