Marijuana and the memory has a long-standing relationship. With many myths and realities surrounding the two. But the combination is more complicated than anyone may think. Even though it might be obvious that smoking weed will affect your cognitive ability, and the memories you have – to what extent, is what experts are now trying to figure out.
To explore ourselves, we dove deep into the latest research and summarized the current status of what we know about how marijuana affects memories.
One reason the topic of marijuana and memory is so hard to definitively investigate, is there are many types of memories. Not to mention, experts are still trying to catch up on marijuana research in general. To best understand how marijuana affects memories, let’s first learn a little more about how our brain functions and processes, to access these occurrences.
The three main types of memories include:
Short Term: Short term memory is classified as information that’s retained anywhere from 15-30 seconds. Such as when a person tells you their name, or phone number.
Long Term: Research shows more long-term memories are stored in the brain than we even imagine, or can recall from day to day. The brain and long-term memory has even been compared to the size of the internet, as it has the power to contain quadrillion bytes of information retained.
Sensory: Sensory memories are ignited by one of your 5 senses’ and typically only last for a second or less, as it’s a function processed by our subconscious. An example would be smelling a familiar scent, or reacting appropriately to hearing a familiar sound (like a car horn).
Regardless of the type of memory, retaining, storing and processing the information all occurs inside the brain, with varied receptors, and messengers. Some being the same neural pathways that marijuana can directly influence, too.
How Marijuana Affects Memories
Which is exactly how and why science is exploring how marijuana exactly affects memories. The compounds found in cannabis, including cannabinoids CBD and THC, disrupt or influence the neural signalling responsible for regulating memory.
Since there are over 400 different cannabinoids, and terpenes that provide cannabis’ effects, deciphering what affects what as for marijuana and memory has been a difficult task.
What also makes a difference is the amount or frequency of consumption. Frequent users, who consume cannabis daily are showing varied effects in comparison to infrequent users.
Likely due to the permanent changes that cannabinoids can cause overtime to brain functions, and communication for memories to be retrieved. So, that’s just another added factor to be considered by those researching the connection.
The Latest Research on Memory and Marijuana
Speaking of research…now that we know the basics of how marijuana is able to affect memory, we can go deeper into what actual studies are proving. Here are some of the latest and most profound trials on how cannabis affects memory – long term, short term, sensory, frequent users, and infrequent results, too.
- A study conducted in 2002 found that THC did impair memory retention in infrequent users, when recalling information 2 hours after being administered the dose. On the flip side, no residual effects or damage remained after a 24-48 hour period. Showing that cannabis’ effect on memory, might be short-lived itself.
- In 2016, research was published by the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal that concluded frequent use of THC did affect your ability to recall short term memories. The participants included consumers, who had been using marijuana for over five years.
- One study concluded that CBD on the other hand increases blood flow to the cerebral parts of the brain, that are responsible for memory regulation and processing. This improvement in function could be helpful in treating PTSD, too.
- In 2017, one study on mice concluded that THC had the ability to improve cognitive function associated with memory.
What’s unique about researching marijuana and memory, as noted by The Seattle Times, is it’s hard or even impossible to ‘determine causality’.
Meaning, they’re unsure if marijuana use is causing poor short-term memory, or if participants with lower cognition are more likely to consume marijuana. From person to person, it’s hard to determine if cognitive ability plays a part in these individual studies as well.
Memory Disorders and Marijuana
Lastly, let’s discuss common disorders that are negatively associated to the memory. Like Alzheimer’s and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While both conditions are vastly different, they share delivering detrimental effects due to storing or not-storing memories properly. Which marijuana’s interaction with nerve communication, and brain messaging is showing to positively affect.
Multiple studies have been conducted on how cannabinoids are able to soothe the symptoms of PTSD, by blocking certain memories from being retrieved. With one study showing the reduction of severity in PTSD’s negative memories by 62% amongst its participants.
On the flip side, studies are showing that cannabinoid’s neuroprotective abilities can help Alzheimer’s patients retain their memory for longer. In addition to being able to help prevent the disease, altogether. Again, the inner-workings of the endocannabinoid system and how marijuana influences the body is still in its infancy as of research. The more trials conducted, the more we’ll continue to learn over time.
Marijuana Myths and Realities
As you can see by the research, and the information we have on how cannabinoids affect brain pathways – it’s true that marijuana certainly affects memory. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t myths that still surround the topic. Early research is showing that the relationship is more complex than just claiming ‘marijuana makes you forgetful’.
A wide range of factors play into the effect marijuana has on retaining memories or information, which experts are still attempting to figure out. The good news is, many effects are showing to be positive for memory based conditions like PTSD and Alzheimer’s. When using marijuana, recreationally or medically, a high-quality product is always the way to go. Check out MMJDirect’s extensive collection of top-shelf goods, now, for convenient purchasing and delivery to your door.