For the cannabis fanatic or the occasional user, marijuana is a drug that can offer relaxation and a sense of reprieve from many of the maladies that impact the body. Yet, while studies have shown that marijuana is growing in popularity given its potential for medical use, there’s proof that using it can have a marked impact on your memory.
According to Arcview Market Research, the marijuana sales in 2017 grew by approximately 30% from the previous year to 6.7 billion. With marijuana becoming available for recreational use in states like California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, and the tides changing for medicinal marijuana, it’s important to be aware of what the drug’s impacts – positive and negative – can be.
Whether you’re testing the waters or have always been on the bandwagon, marijuana does have the ability to affect your verbal, short-term and long-term memory. Some of what we know may still be murky, but studies have shown that there can be impacts, and if you’ve experienced them in your own life, let us know.
In the Short Term
Marijuana has the reputation – and the stereotype – of seriously slowing down one’s movements and what it can do is no different when it comes to short-term memory.
Working memory, which is the type of memory that enables us to learn new things by following a thought process, can be adversely affected by marijuana.
In a 2004 study from the San Francisco Brain Research Institute, participants were shown a series of pictures, when they had inhaled marijuana and when they had been given a placebo. The responses provided after smoking marijuana were less accurate, and slower.
Impacting Spatial Memory
You may not be aware of it, but spatial memory is what enables you to remember the myriad things around you, whether it’s the path to the grocery store or where you put your coffee. In a 2015 study by Dr. David Lewis and Dr. Christopher Verrico at the University of Pittsburgh, 7 adolescent male monkeys were injected with THC for 5 days a week for 27 weeks, an amount equivalent to a cigarette.
During testing, the monkeys were expected to stare at a touch screen and identify where squares appeared. At 16 weeks, monkeys that had ingested marijuana or its seeds provided the correct response 63 percent of the time while monkeys that hadn’t ingested anything provided it 71 percent of the time. According to Lewis, “Brain functions that are actively maturing at the time of THC exposure may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of the exposure.”
What About Long-Term?
The data around marijuana’s long-term impacts on the brain may be a well-told tale, but there’s not necessarily a lot that we know about long-term impacts. According to a 2016 study by University of California, San Francisco, marijuana use did result in participants being able to remember one less word from a list of fifteen words than those who did not smoke marijuana. As researchers said, “We found a dose-dependent independent association between cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana and worsening verbal memory in middle age.” According to their findings, marijuana has an impact on the way in which information is processed in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important in maintaining memory.
Brushing Away the Bad
Whether they come to us in the middle of a nightmare or with our evening cocktails, bad memories are a part of life that many people are happy to forget. Yet, in many instances, it’s been suggested that marijuana can alleviate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because its use can stimulate endocannabinoid activity in the body and work to lessen painful memories. According to Dr. Alexander Neumeister, “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.” The hope is that, as research into marijuana use for anxiety and depression becomes more common, so will the potential solutions for those experiencing PTSD.
How to Maintain Memory
Given that cannabis use can have an impact on spatial, verbal and long-term memory no matter how you use it, there’s a benefit in finding ways to help maintain your memory. Since the brain is comprised of 60% fat, consuming Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in foods like salmon, nuts and eggs can help to maintain brain function. In addition, B vitamins can be a helpful supplement for those already taking in the right amount of Omega-3s. Besides a healthy diet, exercise can help your hippocampus, where memories are formulated, and getting a lot of sleep assists with memory retention. Ensuring your body is not deprived of these things can be key in combating the impacts of marijuana.
If you’re a cannabis user or you’ve started ingesting it medicinally as CBD products, have you experienced memory loss? If so, what kind of things have you done to improve your memory?
By Nancy Fernandez
Nancy Fernandez is an avid reader who enjoys getting lost in the world of books. Caught by the fashion bug, she also loves to pen down her thoughts on paper and share them with the world. A traveller by heart, she enjoys meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.