Thursday June 6, 2019

By Erin Hiatt


While it is true that the mainstream media loves to portray stoners that can’t seem to remember their name, or where they put their cars or their keys, it is also true that cannabis can and does, in fact, affect memory. But studies showing memory loss in cannabis users have been largely anecdotal, and there are many factors in play, including whether someone uses occasionally or is a long-term consumer, how frequently they consume, and through what consumption methods.

What we do know for sure is that occasional consumers may have short-term memory impairment that goes away after a few hours. For those who consume frequently, short term memory impairments may take longer, a day or more, to wear off. But do some strains affect short-term memory more than others?

The Science Behind Cannabis and Short-Term Memory

Researchers at University College London (UCL) studied 134 cannabis users between the ages of 16 and 23 who agreed to take memory tests on two separate days: one day stoned on their preferred strain, the other day sober for at least 24 hours. The memory task was fairly straightforward, to recall a short passage of prose after hearing it repeatedly, but after a short delay. On the intoxicated day, participants submitted saliva samples that were then analyzed for levels of non-intoxicating cannabidiol, or CBD, and the most definitely intoxicating THC.

High-THC Flower
Research indicates that strains high in THC and low in CBD could cause stronger memory impairment.

Medical Xpress reports, “The research found that people smoking cannabis containing a low percentage of cannabidiol performed much worse on the memory tests when they were intoxicated than when they were sober. In contrast, those smoking cannabis high in cannabidiol performed just as well on the tests when they were intoxicated as when they were sober. There were no differences in the THC content of the cannabis smoked by any of the participants.”

In other words, it’s not about how potent the THC, but rather a matter of balance between CBD and THC.

CBD has been shown in studies to counterbalance THC’s not-so-fun aspects, like paranoia, anxiety, and in this case, memory. That is because of the entourage effect, which proposes that cannabis’ chemical compounds, like THC, CBD, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, work better when they are consumed together.

Reclaim Your Memory

Valerie Curran, a psychologist on the UCL study, noted that cannabis, over the past 20 years, has changed, with high-THC, low-CBD products being the strains of choice for many consumers. “But these studies suggest that these strains can increase the risk of cognitive harm,” she said. “We believe users should be made aware of the risk of memory impairment from smoking low-cannabidiol strains.” Curran went on to encourage consumers to use strains that have higher levels of CBD to mitigate short-term and other kinds of memory loss associated with cannabis consumption.

High-CBD Strain
High-CBD strains like ACDC (pictured above) have shown to negate short-term memory loss.

So, before we forget, the first thing to do is find a strain with a more balanced ratio of THC to CBD. Another tool to fight off memory loss from cannabis consumption is to look for strains high in the terpene pinene. Like its name suggests, pinene is found in the resin, stems, and leaves of pine and spruce trees, as well as rosemary, sage, and cannabis. It is thought that pinene on its own has many medicinal effects, as an anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, and expectorant. When working in synthesis with cannabis, pinene may act as a protector for molecules that transmit information, which could help with short-term memory loss.

Here are a few strains loaded with pinene you can find right here on our PotGuide Strain Guide: OG Kush, Romulan X Chemo, Bubba Kush, Island Sweet, Skunk, and Trainwreck. As with all things cannabis, studying the therapeutic effects of the plant are blocked by federal prohibition. More research on how cannabis affects short-term memory, both positive and negative, is definitely needed.

Do you think cannabis affects short-term memory? Share your comments below!

Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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