How Cannabis Affects Memory
Thinking of a stereotypical cannabis user, (or stoner), you’d probably think of someone who forgets things frequently, right? But is this actually the case?
To get a clearer understanding on the effects of cannabis on the human memory, it’s important to note that there are different memory types, like short-term and long-term. These human memory types can be affected in a few different ways. For instance, there can be acute, periodic or even continuous effects. These effects on memory can be determined by the type of cannabinoid you are using, the type of strain being consumed, the dosage amount and the dosage frequency.
By learning the impact of cannabinoids on our memory – you can understand which types of cannabis is best for you considering its effects on your memory.
How Cannabinoids Affect Memory?
Cannabinoids interact with the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for storing and processing all memories. Once cannabinoids are consumed, they enter the bloodstream and activate the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptors) of the endocannabinoid system which is also located in the hippocampal part of the brain.
All cannabinoids interact with the hippocampus in similar ways once they enter the body, but the effects they can have will vary depending on the specific type of cannabinoid ingested.
THC and Memory
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound found in cannabis that is known to provide psychoactive effects. While THC doesn’t cause blackouts, it can make it more difficult to remember things while under the influence of it. However, this forgetfulness can continue for a short period of time even after the effects of THC have worn off.
In a study centered around cognitive and subjective dose-response effects, it was shown that THC can impair recall for up to two hours after consumption. However, effects to memory are short-term with no residual effects occurring beyond the initial 24-48 hours.
University of Oxford found that cannabis didn’t affect the ability to recall existing memories. For instance, when intoxicated, you are not likely to forget your date of birth, where you live, etc.
Furthermore, research has shown that those who use cannabis frequently will develop a tolerance to these effects. So over time, becoming less sensitive and ultimately being able to better recall events while under the influence.
However, despite tolerances that may develop, JAMA Internal Medicine determined that people who consume a lot of cannabinoids over a long period of time can develop poor verbal memory recall. The same study found that heavy users could recall 8.5 of every 15 words while those who smoked less or didn’t consume at all could recall 9 out of 15 words. This might not seem like a significant difference, but it was suggested that memory could further deteriorate with higher usage over longer amounts of time.
CBD and Memory
While THC can be damaging to memory, the cannabinoid CBD has been shown to actually improve memory ability. This non-intoxicating cannabis constituent may even offset THC’s memory impairment and may provide therapeutic potential to prevent certain cognitive impairments.
A study conducted on acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis, revealed that CBD worked in such a way that it lowered the risk of memory impairment. Other forms of research have shown that CBD can provide therapeutic benefits that may counter neural degeneration. These are properties that can make the compound useful in the treatment of notable diseases like Parkinson’s, Dementia and Alzheimers.
There’s evidence that CBD can protect against brain damage caused by binge drinking or alcohol abuse. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that CBD can reduce alcohol induced cell death in the brain by up to 60%. Because of this, it’s been shown that CBD’s effects on memory may also be helpful in fighting addiction. Addiction largely lies in our ability to remember. We recall the pleasant effects drugs or alcohol provide and it is this memory that helps fuel our addiction.
The Society for the Study of Addiction found that in rats, CBD can work on memory to reduce the awarding effects in animal models to decrease the craving for drugs. Further studies on humans, showed that CBD was not as effective in reducing the craving for nicotine, but could be effective in minimizing addiction to opioids, cocaine and other harmful stimulants.
CBD has also been found to have the ability to reduce unpleasant memories. This is why it can be effective in the reduction of anxiety, PTSD and other mental conditions that may be tied to trauma or fearful memories.
CBG and Memory
CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid that can be beneficial to memory. It’s not as know a cannabinoid as THC or CBD; however, CBG (cannabigerol) works to increase anandamide levels in the body. This is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that helps regulate biological functions in the body including memory. Furthermore, a study conducted on animal models in 2015 found that CBG can work as a neuroprotectant that can protect neurons from degeneration.
Hemp and Memory
The major functions of the brain depend on sufficient cannabinoid production. Fatty acids like Omega 3 and 6 and linoleic acid are all responsible for producing cannabinoids. Omega 3 is especially important because of its ability to repair damaged brain cells.
Hemp is a strain of the cannabis sativa plant that is grown for the use of its derived products. It’s one of the few ingredients found in nature that have the perfect balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 which coincides with our brain’s need for cannabinoids.
Hemp seed oil has been dubbed “Nature’s most perfectly balanced oil”, due to the fact that it contains the perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 (linoleic/ LA) to Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic/ LNA) essential fatty acids, determined to be the optimum requirement for long-term healthy human nutrition.
Its powder is rich in Omega 3 that can work to keep the brain healthy. This plant-based supplement can be found in several health food stores. It can also be added to shakes to provide health benefits to the brain and other parts of the body.
CBD and Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. CBD works in three different ways to fight Dementia. CBD reduces inflammation, reduces oxygen build up and works as a brain stimulant and neuroprotectant.
Inflammation increases the negative impact of Alzheimer’s disease. The inflammation occurs in response to the brain’s immune cell’s inability to clear disoriented blockages. The inflammation that takes place leads to a release of oxygen. This increased oxygen further contributes to memory loss and other forms of degeneration.
CBD works to reduce inflammation and functions as an antioxidant helping to reduce oxidative stress. It also promotes the growth and development of brain cells reducing the decline of memory and other brain functions.
In addition to Alzheimer’s, CBD can be beneficial in helping reduce the effects of a number of other conditions that are related to neural degeneration. These include Parkinson’s Disease, Frontotemporal Dementia (Pick’s Disease), Huntington’s Disease, Vascular Dementia and Dementia with Lewy Bodies.
Protecting the Memory from the Damaging Effects of THC
Research suggests that THC can begin wearing down on the memory, especially with heavy, long-term use. However, if you would still like to benefit from the advantages THC provides, there are ways you can counter its damaging effects by stimulating the brain and staying healthy.
Here are some recommended practices:
Write Stuff Down: Whether on a piece of paper or in a phone app, you might be surprised to find out how much writing a simple one line phrase down can help stimulate memory.
Eating the Right Foods: Foods that are high in choline, Omega 3, Omega 6, B12 and vitamin E can be beneficial to memory. Try eating foods like soybeans, wheat germ, brussels sprouts, peanut butter, pure chocolate, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and spinach.
Get Plenty of Sleep: Sleep helps the brain to recover and transfer short-term memories to long-term memories. It is hard for a person to memorize things when they are exhausted. Be sure to get the recommended amount of sleep to keep your brain functioning in tip top shape.
Exercise: Exercise is good for health and it also stimulates neurogenesis, a process of new neuron creation that can improve mental health. One study found that regular aerobic exercise can even develop a larger hippocampus.
Use Ibuprofen in Moderation: New research has provided evidence that painkillers, like Ibuprofen could prevent cannabis-related memory loss. If you choose to use Ibuprofen for this purpose, use it in moderation.
Control Strain and Dosage: Because THC is most damaging in higher doses, it is important to keep your dosage low. Since CBD can help counter the effects of memory loss caused by THC, try experimenting with strains that have a lower THC level and higher CBD level. Even strains that have an equal concentration of both cannabinoids can be better for you than those with high levels of THC.
Cannabinoids can be extremely beneficial to the body, but in the case of THC, memory can be negatively affected. To avoid this, do what you can to stay healthy to protect your memory and look to alternates like CBD and CBG for their mood-elevating and brain-protecting effects. Hopefully these tips will assist you in finding the combination that is right for you.