‘Marijuana Drains Brain Blood Flow, Boosts Alzheimer’s Risk’: Fake News or Flawed Study?

The Internet was abuzz last week over Dr. Daniel Amen’s new study suggesting cannabis use increases Alzheimer’s risk. The media quickly took the bait. Raw Story wrote, “Smoking weed may accelerate Alzheimer’s disease.” The New York Daily News, who’ve never been shy about posting sensational clickbait headlines, wrote, “Marijuana drains brain blood flow, boosts Alzheimer’s risk: study.”

The study’s findings seem to contradict a large body of emerging evidence suggesting cannabinoids may lower risk for Alzheimer’s and may even be useful in treating the disease. Consistent with the research, Juan Sanchez-Ramos, MD, PhD, a professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of South Florida and a recognized expert on neurological disorders, believes cannabinoids — by virtue of their neuroprotective and anti-oxidative actions — have the potential to “slow the onset and progression of neurodegenerative conditions.”

The research thus far begs the question: how could cannabis — with its demonstrated neuroprotective properties — increase the risk of Alzheimer’s? Was this a situation where the media misrepresented a study, or did the study’s authors exaggerate their findings?

Comparing media reports with Amen’s study and press release, remarkably, Amen appears more culpable than the media. Amen’s study fails to disclose serious limitations. Worse, in his own press release, he grossly misrepresents what his team’s research proved.