In today's society, cannabis consumers are often perceived as absent-minded and forgetful persons. But how often do you actually have difficulties recalling something after smoking a pipe? Do marijuana and poor memory really go hand in hand, or is this just a myth groundlessly spread by weed opponents? In this article, we tried to shed light on this issue and find out what results the scientific studies have revealed in this respect.
First of all, we should understand that our memory is a complex thing that cannot be easily investigated. People have different types of memory, like verbal or spatial memory. This fact necessitates a special approach to the study. Moreover, take into account that cannabis can influence our memory in different ways providing us with short-term and possible long-term effects. In addition, the effect of marijuana on our memory also depends on how much and how often we consume a particular cannabis strain.
Cannabis users can experience short-term effects of cannabis relatively quickly thanks to tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), a marijuana compound that provides consumers with a euphoric effect. Moreover, THC affects human memory in two significant ways by causing difficulties in encoding memories and short-term recall troubles. The first effect of marijuana becomes noticeable when cannabis users find it difficult to form new memories while they are high. The second effect of cannabis on memory appears when stoned patients try to recall some events.
However, a recent study shows that seasoned cannabis consumers become tolerant to these short-term effects of marijuana on their memory. Moreover, another study reveals that pot users have only temporary memory impairments in most cases. The study participants face difficulties in recalling memories only two hours after using cannabis without having any side effects in the following 24 or 48 hours. Thus, there is no need to fear that you can forget your address or birth date when you are high because marijuana does not cause difficulties in recalling your existing memories.
Studying the long-term effects of cannabis on the human memory, scientists have discovered that frequent consumption of marijuana may have a negative influence on the long-term memory. JAMA Internal Medicine has recently published a 25-year study concluding that middle-aged people who constantly used marijuana for a period longer than five years showed poorer performance on verbal memory tests than other participants who used cannabis less or not at all. Interestingly, other types of memory of heavy pot consumers were not affected, and these participants did not have any other side effects on their cognitive abilities, like difficulties with focusing or processing speed.
Though THC may lead to negative effects on memory, there is another cannabis compound, namely, cannabidiol (or CBD), that has no psychoactive effects and may prevent memory impairment. Moreover, researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK, found that CBD had a therapeutic potential that might reverse the cognitive difficulties experienced by cannabis users.
Studying the positive effects of CBD on the human brain, scientists also revealed that this marijuana constituent could protect brain cells from the negative influence of alcohol abuse. For instance, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced that cannabidiol was able to reduce the death of brain cells from alcohol damage by up to 60%.
Though memory impairment is often considered as a negative thing, this condition may appear to be positive for people with PTSD. Difficulties with memory often define PTSD; people experience them when trying to recall their memories after traumatic events such as sexual assault, abuse, or combat.
Veterans who tried medical cannabis often reported that marijuana was really effective for them. Scientists explain this with the fact that cannabis prevents the recovery of negative memories. Thus, medical marijuana helps patients with PTSD not to recall painful memories.
The conducted studies on the impact of cannabis on the human memory have already helped us understand how marijuana affects the brain and memory, and most of our concerns about marijuana have appeared to be overstated. Though medical cannabis can lead to memory difficulties in stoners, these side effects disappear after a short period. Heavy users may suffer from verbal memory disorders, but other types of their memory work effectively.
In addition to the discovered side effects, medical marijuana can bring therapeutic benefits to patients who suffer from PTSD or alcohol abuse. Hopefully, further research will let us know more about marijuana's effects on preventing and treating such conditions as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, which affect millions of people in the world.