Cannabis and Memory

Cannabis and Memory


Famously cannabis is supposed to worsen memory. We have the classic cartoonish stoner who can’t remember something someone told them 10 seconds ago. However, is this factual or just another offshoot of the war on drugs. The truth is that yes cannabis can alter your memory, but not always negatively. Sure cannabis can hinder your memory if overused but it can also be used to help treat certain memory-related disorders. So let’s look at the facts behind cannabis and memory rather than just the negative press. 


What Do We Mean Memory?


Before we can look at how cannabis affects memory we need to know what we mean by memory. Memory is more than just images we hold in our brains. It also dictates how we make decisions, interact with people, and even view ourselves. Of course, one of the main aspects of memory is just learning basic things from how to eat to how to do our jobs. So obviously, memory isn’t something we want to be messing around with. I’m sure most of us have interacted with someone suffering from dementia and have seen the damage that disease does to a quality of life. 

Your brain is an extremely delicate organ that is constantly buzzing with activity. Since it is so delicate this does mean that the neurons that collect our memories are also extremely delicate. We’ve all forgotten important things, unimportant things, happy things, not quite so much as sad things. Unfortunately, they are always able to stick around in the back of your brain just waiting for you to try and go to bed. 

There are ways that we can strengthen our memory and ways that we can weaken our memory and each memory is completely different. 


Cannabis And Your Brain


One of the big questions that gets raised all the time is whether or not weed is actually bad for your brain. Well we do know that in some cases cannabis can have short term effects on your memory. For example, when you’re high it can be a lot harder to remember what is going on at the time or what happened very recently. The overall effect that cannabis has on your brain and your memory has been largely anecdotal for a long time due to the lack of funding for cannabis research. As it becomes legal in more and more parts of the world we are capable of really looking deeper into how cannabis really affects the brain. We know that we have an endocannabinoid system which is mimicked by the cannabinoids found in weed. This essentially is why cannabis can alter your hunger, anxiety, stress, depression and all sorts of other things that are dictated by your neurons and nervous system. The compounds in cannabis do this by disrupting neural signals which is largely what is being blamed for short term memory loss while high. It can also cause loss of interest in a task or concentration. While weed is altering your brain to have the effect it has it will disrupt some of the neuron pathways, that’s inevitable. However, unless you are young, which we will look at later, there is a lot to suggest that memory damage from weed is not permanent. In fact, in a number of cases there has been complete recuperation once the adult has stopped smoking weed. The speed in which this happens depends largely on the amount and frequency that you smoke as well as the kind of weed. 


Cannabis And Memory Disorders


However, the interesting aspects of cannabis and memory come when we look at memory disorders. Early research is showing that cannabis may be able to positively impact diseases and illnesses that cause long term and permanent memory loss. There are a number of ways that our brains can be altered and damaged. Primarily through diseases like dementia, Huntington’s, alzheimers and epilepsy. Just because cannabis can have one short term negative effect on the brain doesn’t mean it can’t assist in other ways. 

At the moment it seems that cannabis can actually slow these diseases down and stop them doing extreme damage as quickly. They believe that this is because cannabinoids are capable of creating neurons. Cannabinoids mimicking and basically replicating neurons is essentially how the endocannabinoid system works. 

We can find out more by looking at our classic cannabinoids, THC and CBD. These are the compounds that match recurring compounds that exist in our brains and so either get us high or are restorative. Obviously we use these compounds in different amounts to alter the effect they have on us. One may increase the potential of mental health issues while the other is often used to treat them. 


What’s The Difference?


The forgetful stoner who doesn’t know what happened a few minutes ago is due to the effect that high THC cannabis has on the brain, especially in younger people. This is the short term memory loss we discussed earlier. Young people that excessively use cannabis are more likely to experience short term memory issues while high due to the fact it can make it more difficult to take in new information and can also reduce the motivation to learn new things. However, we have found that people who are a little older don’t have the same issue. The impact on short term memory is moderate and does not last. However, there is a chance that certain strains could slow down the passage of vicious memory affecting illnesses that tend to appear in later life. 

Basically no one is saying that your memory won’t be negatively affected by smoking lots of weed. In fact, we are pretty sure that there will be some reduction in memory, motor function and motivation. However, this doesn’t mean that we should completely rule cannabis out for use in memory treatments. As I always state with these kinds of articles, do your own research. This is merely based on studies that I found and read but I am by no means the be all and end all of information on this topic. 


Written by Tasha Porritt


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