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How Does Medical Marijuana Affect Your Memory?

August 20, 2020 • • Medical Marijuana

While medical cannabis can interfere with how the brain creates short-term memories, its effects on long-term memory are far less severe.

  Scientists have known for some time that cannabis can have a negative impact on short-term memory, but research has also found that marijuana generally has minimal effects on long-term memory. In fact, multiple studies have found that cannabis may even help improve memory for patients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The cannabinoids found in marijuana, such as
THC and CBD, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, which are thought to play a role in regulating many of the body’s systems. Further, cannabinoids also affect the nervous system, including the brain. Here’s what you need to know about how medical marijuana can impact how we process information and form new memories.

The Relationship Between Cannabinoids and Memory

Did you know that the human body naturally generates its own cannabinoids? These compounds function like neurotransmitters, using cannabinoid receptors to send messages to the brain. Cannabinoid receptors can affect a number of significant regions of the brain, including those that manage cognition, emotion, movement, sensory perceptions, and memory. THC, the cannabinoid that causes the euphoric high associated with marijuana, is known to interact with the hippocampus in particular, which is the part of the brain responsible for the formation of new memories.

One
study found that people who smoked cannabis daily for at least five years had reduced verbal memory, often linked with the formation of new short-term memories. Those who smoked less (or not at all) did not demonstrate the same negative impact on verbal memory. The study also found that the amount of cannabis smoked has a linear effect on short-term memory: the more cannabis smoked, the greater the impairment. That said, the researchers pointed out that the amount of cannabis smoked had no effect on patients’ ability to focus on or process new experiences, or on their ability to access long-term memories. (This study focused specifically on the effects of smoking cannabis, and the results therefore do not necessarily apply to other delivery methods.)

In studying the effect that THC has on the brain, researchers have found that the cannabinoid “slows” or reduces the brain’s ability to process and store new information as memory. In practical terms, this means that using cannabis can make it more difficult to solve new problems or engage with new concepts, but familiar problems and ideas can be recalled
without issue.

Tips for Preventing Memory Loss

If you’re worried about how medical cannabis might affect your memory, here are a few steps you can take to keep your brain healthy:

 
    • Pay attention to your diet. Diets rich in B vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids are known to support brain function and health. These important nutrients help form myelin, a lipid that protects neurons.
    • Exercise.
      Not only is it good for the body — exercise is good for the brain, helping create new neurons.

    Get your eight hours. When we sleep, our brains convert short-term memories into long-term ones, which is why sleep deprivation can cause issues with memory, focusing, and processing.

    Give your brain a workout. Simple brain exercises — like memory games, crosswords, writing, and more — help keep your brain stimulated and engaged.

    If you’d like to learn more about how medical cannabis affects the body — as well as how it might be able to help manage your health conditions —
    contact Lakewood Medical Clinic today. We’re a team of licensed healthcare providers and medical marijuana experts dedicated to making cannabis-based treatments accessible, in a warm and welcoming environment.