Cannabis & Memory | Stoner Blog
For years, people have believed that cannabis effects the memory formation in the human brain. Those against the plant have insisted that long term use (or even short term) will kill your brain cells and make you dumb. This fact is highly contested, with supporters arguing that some of the smartest, most successful people have admitted to smoking (and enjoying) cannabis. Not only that but memory is a difficult thing to measure and there are different types of memory, such as short term memory and long term memory, among others. So what does cannabis do to memory?
The main compound in cannabis, THC, has shown to have an effect on short term memory. It creates a difficulty in encoding memories. Those who use cannabis sometimes show trouble in forming new memories while under the influence. While this is like being “black out” drunk, the effects are not as severe as cannabis. Short term recall is also effected by THC. Stoners have difficulty recalling events while high and even after the high wears off. But those who continuously indulge in cannabis have shown in studies to develop a tolerance to these effects of THC. The more cannabis is smoked, the less difficulty the user had recalling the memory.
Studies show that the memory impairments tend to be temporary. One of these such studies showed that while THC can effect memory for two hours after consumption, there are no lasting effects after 24 to 48 hours. It was also shown that cannabis will not effect the ability to recall existing memories, like your high school, your address, your siblings, or your parents.
As for cannabis and long term memory, a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, it was shown that people who consume more cannabis over five or more years developed worse verbal memory recall as compared to those who consumed less cannabis or none at all. The study consisted of nearly 3400 Americans over a period of twenty five years. Verbal recall was tested and Reto Auer, a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, was the study’s main author. The results showed that those subjects who smoked every day could recall 8.5 words out of 15. Subjects who smoked less or none at all could recall 9 out of 15 words. While .5 words doesn’t seem like a whole lot, Auer suggested that the longer someone used cannabis, the worse their memory would become. But only 8% of those in the study considered themselves heavy smokers and they also didn’t find that the 8% had any other cognitive abilities impacted by their cannabis use, such as the ability to focus and process information.
New studies are being released that are suggesting that cannabis may actually benefit memory and the plant is being studied for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s. CBD, one of the other compounds found in cannabis, has promise of being able to also fight the brain damage caused by alcohol abuse and binge drinking. CBD reduced alcohol induced cell death in the brain by up to 60%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. So does cannabis have an effect on memory? More research is definitely needed to gain a definitive answer but as of right now, the effects don’t seem nearly as bad as someone who drinks a lot of alcohol.