What Science Says About Cannabis and Memory Loss

One of the most common stereotypes associated with cannabis use is short-term memory loss and while there is evidence to support those claims, there’s also evidence that users grow a tolerance to the memory-loss side effects, using cannabis doesn’t seem to have an effect in recalling existing memories and that memory impairment is limited to a couple of hours after cannabis use.

Cannabidiol and neurological disorders

Additionally, there’s evidence that CBD (cannabidiol) may offset this impairment and the cannabinoid might be useful in treating memory deficit disorders caused by vascular dementia, such as strokes, and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis. CBD might also be useful for individuals suffering from mild cognitive impairment, who are otherwise healthy and don’t experience other cognitive problems often associated with dementia, such as disorientation or confusion.

CBD for memory loss

A 2017 study at Australia’s University of Wollongong focused on CBD as a therapy for schizophrenia concluded that in preclinical models CBD improved cognition for schizophrenic patients. Moreover, the research found CBD was effective in improving cognition for patients with neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s; neuro-inflammatory disease, such as cerebral malaria and meningitis; and neurological disorders. The authors note that, like most cannabis research, much more is warranted to determine the effectiveness of CBD on conditions that cause memory deficiencies.

A 2005 study found that CBD acted as a neuroprotectant, specifically against alcohol-induced brain cell death by 60 percent, because of its anti-oxidant properties. A more recent study, from 2017, found that CBD “plays a role in compensatory repair mechanisms” following a traumatic brain injury. The researchers concluded that the endocannabinoid system has “shown promise in modulating cellular and molecular hallmarks of TBI pathology such as; cell death, excitotoxicity, neuroinflammation, cerebrovascular breakdown, and cell structure and remodeling” – all of which play a role in subsequent memory loss.

What about THC?

At least two studies have found cannabis rich in CBD and THC efficacious for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can sometimes cause memory deficit disorder in patients because they have lower levels of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that controls memory. Research from the University of California suggests that cannabinoids increase dopamine levels and they increase those levels differently from stimulants – such as Adderall – which, in the short term, seem to improve memory loss.

In 2016, research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal found that, while habitual recreational cannabis users did have a harder time recalling a list of 15 words those that were mostly affected had used cannabis daily for 5 years or longer. Just 8 percent of the 3,385 study subjects fell into that category and they showed no signs of impairment to the other cognitive problem-solving abilities tested, such as focus and processing speed.

CBD products beneficial

The chronic cannabis consumers in the JAMA-published study were likely using THC-rich products throughout the study’s 25-year span. CBD products, apparently, have little role in negatively affecting memory, and perhaps does quite the opposite. Products containing both cannabinoids in will likely have less an impact on short-term memory while limiting the impact on potential long-term impact if used daily.

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