How Does Cannabis Affect Your Memory?

Cannabis and memory?

Do you have a tendency of forgetting things frequently? Do you forget the words or phrases as soon as you hear or learn them? There is a complicated relationship between cannabis and memory. Memory is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. But this memory cannot be easily measured as a construct because memory can be of different types – such as acute, or short-term, effects on memory (e.g., while under the influence), and possible long-term effects and each of which you test in different ways. Fortunately, recent research highlights some exciting findings about how cannabis affects memory.

What are the Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Memory?

The primary element in cannabis, THC, giving users a euphoric effect, appears to impair memory in two important ways. First, cannabis users don’t experience the temporary loss of memory as drinkers do after a big binge but it’s not easier to form new memories while under the influence. Second, short-term recalling can be a challenge. Luckily, studies demonstrate that recurrent cannabis users might develop a tolerance to these effects and face less difficulty in recalling events after use.[1] A study discovered that THC notably impaired recall 2 hours after use,[2] but there were no residual effects that lasted after 24 to 48 hours. Another study on cannabis found that people taking higher doses of cannabis frequently for a long time (five or more years) developed poorer verbal memory recall than people who didn’t consume, or consumed less.[3] The study’s main author, Reto Auer, a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, claimed that they tested verbal recall of about 3400 Americans over a 25-year period and found that the frequent cannabis users could recall 8.5 out of every 15 words on average. On the contrary, the people who didn’t consume, or consumed less could recall 9 out of every 15 words. Though the difference is half a word, Auer suggested that longer time consuming cannabis might create memory difficulty.

Can Cannabis Protect Memory?

In some studies, participants smoking cannabis high in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabis component, showed no memory impairment.[4] CBD does not impair cognition  and may have therapeutic potential to reverse or prevent certain cognitive impairments.[5] Researchers at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that CBD with ethanol reduced alcohol-induced cell death in the hippocampus and etorhinal cortex of the brain in a dose-dependent manner by up to 60 percent.[6] Some other studies said that CBD could work as a neuroprotectant and inception of the diseases like Parkinson’s,[7] dementia,[8] or Alzheimer’s [9] can be prevented. Memory impairment is never thought of as a good thing. But, when it’s something that happens to a person with PTSD, it’s a different story. Complaints made by veterans regularly that pharmaceutical treatments prescribed by the doctors – such as the highly addictive anti-anxiety medications – don’t work well, and even sometimes worsen symptoms. So they turn to cannabis claiming it’s the only thing that works. Dr. Mike Hart from Marijuana for Trauma explains, “Cannabis helps people forget painful and intrusive memories.”[10]


How cannabis consumption may affect the brain and memory now we are beginning to understand. But, positively, it seems that cannabis adverse effects have been exaggerated. It’s true, cannabis may make you forgetful. But it’s only at the time of using (or shortly thereafter). And It’s also true that it might have a mild impact on verbal recall in constant long-term users. But, memory function comes back to normal in most people, later than a short time of abstinence. In addition, we find the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis. However, more research is needed, especially when cannabis is a medication to treat disorders like PTSD, or to prevent inception of the diseases like Parkinson’s, dementia, or Alzheimer’s.