Memory loss is often associated with marijuana use. For example, you’ve probably seen a stoner portrayed in movies or TV as forgetful and spacey. However, cannabis can impact memory in both positive and negative ways. It all depends on the specific cannabinoids ingested.
Have you ever forgotten where you were going while stoned? If so, you understand marijuana’s impact on short-term memories. In fact, it is one of the most commonly-cited impairments by marijuana users. Scientists agree the culprit is the most popular active ingredient: THC.
Research has found THC disrupts the transformation of short-term memories into long-term memories. THC has a more negative impact on short-term memories than long-term ones. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. When this happens, the way your brain normally functions is liable to change.
Studies have noted that cannabis use reduces the size of the hippocampus which is associated with memory function. However, researchers found this to benefit memory.
“We would anticipate that an individual with small hippocampal volume would perform more poorly on a memory function task, but instead individuals in our study who use marijuana as well as tobacco demonstrated the reverse,” Dr. Francesca Filbey, the study’s lead investigator, told ATTN:. “The smaller the hippocampus size, the greater the memory performance.”
It’s time to face the facts. Can marijuana harm your long-term memory? A 25 year-long study published by JAMA Internal Medicine found long-term marijuana use caused worse verbal recollection over time.
In fact, they deduced 1 of 15 vocabulary words would be forgotten for every 5 years of cannabis use. However, we’re not sure how much pot you’d have to smoke to receive the long-term effects.
“Memory is affected by THC,” Dr. Gilman said. “We don’t really know how much marijuana one needs to use in order to experience memory deficit.”
It’s worth noting that long-term use did not change quick thinking, focus, and problem-solving, according to the authors.
Reviewers found a lack of research to confirm the extent that THC affects recollection. For example, what happens if you stop after 5 years? Is that one word permanently lost or will it eventually come back?
One of the researchers stressed that the results “are only associations,” and not proof of cause and effect. Even if it’s true, losing 1 out of 15 words for every 5 years of regular pot use sounds harmless compared to 5 years of alcohol abuse.
The research on alcohol is more concrete. Heavy drinking is known to cause long-term damage to attention and working memory.
If you think hard enough, you can remember the details from your last smoke session. On the other hand, alcohol is a different story. You can have an entire night blacked out from drinking.
This is just one of the many reasons we’d choose weed over alcohol every time.
Forgetting memories isn’t always a bad thing. For a soldier reliving war tragedies, or anyone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, THC can help. According to one study, patients suffering from PTSD have low levels of endocannabinoids in their brains. Ingesting THC releases endocannabinoids.
As a result, patients have been able to use it to prevent flashbacks and nightmares from haunting them.
“There’s not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD,” said Dr. Alexander Neumeister, a lead author of the study.
That’s a problem because pharmacists and clinicians have found anti-depressants to be ineffective in treating PTSD.
“In fact, we know very well that people with PTSD who use marijuana — a potent cannabinoid — often experience more relief from their symptoms than they do from antidepressants and other psychiatric medications,” Dr. Neumeister added.
How To Save Your Memory
Not to worry! There is a way to combat the forgetfulness that THC causes. You’ll need to use another cannabinoid called cannabidiol or CBD.
CBD is known for it’s medical abilities minus the high commonly associated with marijuana use. THC and CBD both interact with the endocannabinoid system and impact things like mood, appetite, pain, and memory.
However, it seems they affect cannabinoids receptors in different ways. Fortunately, CBD reduces rather than enhances the memory impairment and other negative side effects of THC.
In fact, CBD has been found to aid those suffering from several degenerative memory disorders like Alzheimer’s.
A study conducted in 2014 illustrated how small doses of THC reduced the production of the beta-amyloid, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
How To Get CBD:
You can get CBD tinctures for oral consumption. Unlike a joint, you won’t have to smoke it, and it won’t get you high.
You can also buy a small-scale extractor to make your cannabis oil at home. However, you’re still going to need a lot of weed for this process.
So weed can affect your memory in several ways. It all depends on what part of the plant we’re talking about and how much you take.
You may not notice any impairment when taking smaller doses. On the other hand, a fat dab and you’ll find it harder to access certain memories.
The best way to prevent the forgetfulness that comes with getting high is to have a good amount of CBD on deck. It’ll help out once THC starts to make things hazy.