Cannabis And Memory Problems: Things You Need To Know
A good many people all over the US are raising their voice in support for the legalization of marijuana and other derivative products of cannabis. A considerable amount of research has also been carried out focusing not only on the potential risks and side effects of marijuana use but also on the medicinal applications and healing properties of the substance.
However, before we go into that, let’s make clear that in the present article, we’ll be talking about cannabis and memory problems. This means we will discuss both marijuana and hemp and the effects these substances may have on human memory.
A short word on the difference between marijuana and hemp
The terms hemp and marijuana come from common parlance and neither is a technical term. However, the term “hemp” has been commonly used to refer to those varieties of Cannabis plants that are non-intoxicating and non-psychotropic in nature and contain, by dry weight, no more than 0.3% THC content.
Marijuana, on the other hand, refers to those varieties of Cannabis that are psychotropic or psychoactive in nature and are able to induce euphoric effects on the user. In other words, marijuana is cannabis that gets you high. For a somewhat technical definition, the ‘marijuana’ varieties of cannabis contain, by dry weight, more than 0.3% to up to 30% THC.
The reason we mention this difference is although there has been a lot of talk and debate concerning cannabis use, abuse, its legal stature, etc., there still seems to prevail a certain amount of confusion regarding the exact differences between the two. And many people still have a tendency to regard cannabis and marijuana as synonymous, which, as should be clear from the above discussion, is a grave fallacy.
Cannabis and memory
So, does cannabis have any effect on human memory and if so, how?
Well, as far as CBD is concerned, a number of studies suggest that the use of CBD (in oil or another form) can actually help resist memory impairment. Studies have also revealed that CBD has the potential to act as a neuroprotectant in older people. What is more, CBD or hemp may also help combat cognitive impairments in many people.
Now, we may as well mention here that none of these studies are conclusive in their findings and a good part of the latter is based on certain conjectures and intelligent assumptions. That being said, one can at least rest assured that the use of the hemp variety of cannabis will never have any negative effect on one’s memory and cognitive abilities.
Marijuana and memory problems
Things are, however, a good deal more complicated when it comes to the use (or abuse) of marijuana. Among the numerous psychoactive substances found in marijuana, commonly known as cannabinoids, the one substance that has been the subject of most extensive research is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Now, THC, as well as other psychoactive substances in marijuana, has a similar structure to the endogenous neurotransmitters in the brain. And these natural neurotransmitters are involved with many different areas of cognitive functioning, including memory and learning, and they bind to the CB1 or cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Now, once THC and other psychotropic substances or chemicals first enter our bloodstream and then, eventually cross the barrier between blood and brain, they bind themselves to the same receptors as those endogenous neurotransmitters. However, unlike the neurotransmitters that are closely implicated with the processing and storing of information and thereby controlling our memory, the THC makes no contribution whatsoever to the development of our ability to learn, process and remember information.
This has led many studies to conclude that chronic use of marijuana can impair our memory as well as our cognitive abilities. Adolescents engaging in heavy use of marijuana for a long period of time show low verbal memory scores as well as low IQ points. Although there can be other factors responsible for these, most researchers on the present subject believe that the use of marijuana is primarily responsible for this phenomenon. Moreover, it has been suggested that these neuroanatomical changes such as loss of verbal memory functions and IQ points are permanent since even when the individuals concerned stop using the drug after many years of use, they do not regain those functions.
Myelin or the white matter
What is more, studies involving neuroimaging techniques demonstrate that both adolescents and adults who use marijuana show considerable deficits in the amount of myelin or white matter in the brain that plays a critical part in the effective communication between neurons. And this deficit significantly impairs the tasks of reasoning, memory, and intellect in these individuals.
Marijuana, memory, and hippocampus
When THC and other chemicals found in marijuana attach themselves to CB1 receptors, the first area of the brain that they attack is known as the hippocampus. Now, this area of our brain plays a crucial part in the development of new memories. For example, severe degeneration of the hippocampus area is regarded as one of the first signs that someone is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Now, available studies on marijuana use tell us that THC has the ability to radically alter the structure of the area around hippocampus and this is responsible for issues like memory impairment, loss of learning and cognitive abilities, etc.
Marijuana use and short-term memory
Finally, marijuana use can affect your short-term memory. That is to say, when you are high on marijuana, your brain has trouble encoding memories and this affects your abilities of short-term recall. This, however, is not too different from, say, when you are using alcohol. You may face difficulties remembering certain things or information. Although this is more of a temporary effect, it impairs your ability to create new memories when you are high. And if you are using marijuana all too frequently, it can seriously debilitate your working memory since most times, you’ll be in a kind of daze and therefore unable to cope with the practical matters of daily life.
All the above information points to the fact that marijuana use, at least when used for a long period of time, can have serious negative impacts on our memory. However, on a final note, we also ought to mention that certain researchers have also given voice to the possibility that on people who develop a tolerance to marijuana, these negative effects on memory may be considerably reduced.