Unpacking Weed’s Effect On Memory

Have you ever wondered about weed's effect on memory loss? Here's how it affects our memory and how it can help Alzheimer's patients.

Marijuana has a number of positive effects on the brain: it can ease the symptoms of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Weed’s effect on our memory, however, isn’t all positive.

Despite the fact that many scientists have researched the effect of cannabis on our memory, there’s so much we don’t know. Part of the reason for this is because the study of memory is complicated. There isn’t a universal understanding of how memory works, and it’s difficult to measure memory because it’s not easy to quantify.

That said, the research out there is fascinating – and it’s something all weed users should take note of! Here’s what we know about weed’s effect on memory loss.

Short-term effects of weed on the memory

We all know that cannabis can slow down the functioning of your brain. This is particularly true if you smoke a significant amount of weed that’s high in THC. But how exactly is weed linked to memory loss?

Unlike with alcohol, you can’t ‘black out’ from smoking marijuana. It’s unlikely that you’ll completely forget what happened for a chunk of time. That said, you’re likely to forget more details when you’re high than when you’re not.

Many studies show that being high compromises your ability to form new memories. When you’re high, your brain can’t tell whether it should store memories or dismiss them – and as a result, you can easily forget information you’d ordinarily remember.  Let’s say you get stoned and read some new information. It’s unlikely that you’ll remember that information later, even after the high wears off. Even if you remember some things, your memory won’t be as sharp as usual.

When you’re high, your spatial memory is also compromised. Ever misplaced your phone and keys while high? That’s probably a result of your spatial memory weakening because of THC. If you’re getting stoned in an unfamiliar building, you might struggle to remember the layout and get lost on the way to the bathroom.

Cannabis won’t affect how you recall information you knew before you were high. In other words, weed won’t make you forget your address, your birthday, or important information you learnt the day before.

Weed’s effect on memory in long-term users

weed-memory-loss-dictionaryIf you smoke weed for a long period of time, it can compromise your verbal memory in the long run. This doesn’t mean that you’ll forget important information you stored years before. Rather, it means that your brain loses the ability to store new information over time.

Lasy year, Switzerland’s University of Lausanne published a fascinating study on cannabis and memory loss. The study, which was done over a period of 25 years, showed that long-term cannabis users will have a poorer verbal memory. The more often you smoke, the poorer your verbal memory will be.

In this study, a group of 3,385 middle-aged participants were verbally told a list of fifteen words. The more the participants smoked weed, the fewer words they remembered. Those who had never smoked weed were able to recall 9 out of 15 words, while those who smoked every day for five years could recall an average of 8.5 words. For every five years they smoked weed, the participants could remember an average of one less word.

The study also examined other cognitive abilities, such as focus and processing speed. According to the study, long-term marijuana use didn’t seem to have a significant effect on these functions.

Weed and memory-related diseases

weed-memory-loss-oldWe can’t discuss weed’s effect on memory without discussing Alzheimer’s disease. While weed can have negative effects on your memory, it might be able to prevent memory-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Studies have suggested that weed has neuroprotective properties. This means that weed might prevent diseases where the brain’s function starts to degenerate.

We don’t know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but chronic inflammation in the brain might be a contributing factor.  In 2008, researchers at Ohio State University found that a synthetic chemical similar to THC can slow down inflammation in the brain and protect against Alzheimer’s disease. They suggested that a drug including a THC-like chemical can prevent Alzheimer’s. According to the available research, the patient has to take this drug before the symptoms set in.

Just last year, a new study also found that cannabinoids like THC reduces inflammation in the brain. This study also showed that THC stimulates the removal of toxic plaque in the brain. The build-up of this plaque is thought to contribute to the degeneration of the brain.

While more research is needed into this topic, these studies provide a lot of hope for those living with Alzheimer’s.

When it comes to memory, the effects of marijuana are varied. Weed’s effect on memory isn’t clear-cut, and it has both positive and negative aspects. One thing is certain: we need more research on how memory works and how cannabis affects it.

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