Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
If you’re already a medical marijuana patient, you’re probably aware of marijuana’s effect on memory. You take your medication, and suddenly you can’t remember where your purse is or walk into a room only to forget why you went in there. This can be a disconcerting feeling, but don’t worry. Memory loss is a common side effect and one that can be managed.
Studies are now reporting what we already know. There is a link between cannabis and memory loss. However, these research projects show that it only affects short-term memories and will not cause long-term memory loss. But why does it happen? And is there anything you can do to avoid it?
The reason that cannabis affects your memory is the same reason it is a useful medicinal treatment — because of marijuana’s link to our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabis is comprised of more than a hundred compounds called cannabinoids — this includes CBD and THC. These are similar in structure to cannabinoids found naturally in our ECS.
Our body’s cannabinoids act as neurotransmitters, sending signals between nerve cells throughout the body and brain cells. This lets the ECS serve as a bridge between our mind and body. Cannabinoids affect many different brain regions, such as those responsible for movement, the perception of senses, emotion, thinking and memory. The cannabinoid THC found in marijuana particularly affects the hippocampus, where new memories are formed.
Only if someone uses an unsuitable amount of marijuana is there a danger to our brain’s memory function. A research study based out of the University of Lausanne found those who habitually smoked pot every day for five years or more had poorer verbal memory, which is tied to short-term memory formation. This was not the case with those who smoked less.
The study also found the relationship between memory loss and marijuana is linear. Essentially, the more cannabis smoked, the worse a person’s memory was. However, it also discovered that other cognitive functions, like the ability to focus and process, were not affected by the amount of weed the participant used.
To avoid any long-term repercussions to your memory due to cannabis use, moderation is key. In the meantime, here are some things that are known to improve brain function, keeping your thinker in tip-top shape:
If you’re concerned about medical marijuana causing short-term memory loss, speak to your physician today. Following your doctor’s recommended dosage for cannabis medication alleviates the risk of damage to your short-term memory function. Like all medications, medical marijuana has downsides. However, it’s also proving to be an incredible treatment for several different medical conditions, aiding many across the nation.
To get your medical marijuana card and dosage recommendation, you need to speak to your doctor — our advice shouldn’t replace that of a qualified medical professional. So, make an appointment with a marijuana certified doctor or visit a local dispensary today.