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3 Key Facts About Marijuana and Memory

Break the stereotype that cannabis makes you forgetful - here are the facts.

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You may have heard of a common theory amongst students about how to most effectively study for quiz or test. The theory goes that if you study while chewing gum, lying down or under the influence of something, you should write the exam in the same state of mind or position in order to better remember those facts.

As logical as this may sound (especially after a few too many hours of studying), there is at least one substance that this does not apply to and that's cannabis. 

Marijuana does get the creative juices flowing and even aids in productivity, according to some successful users of the herb, but the issue here isn’t getting things done—it’s forming new memories and retaining them. We’ve looked at a number of studies and rounded up some facts about marijuana and memory to help you better understand how it may help or hinder you.

Memory Development, Not Memory Loss

While using cannabis is often criticized for being linked to memory loss, some scientific studies note that there is more to the science than that. The fact is that THC inhibits memory development of insignificant information or information that doesn’t hold any sort of shock value (both good or bad). This conclusion is derived from the fact that THC blinds cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is believed to help regulates memory development and recall. By blinding these receptors, THC acts as a moderately weak barrier that allows important memories to form while not allowing for the retention of what some might consider to be insignificant information.

Heavier Dosage Equates to Lower Development and Recall

While THC may lead to impaired cognitive functionality, this only seems to concern long term users rather than infrequent, low dosage users, which can be connected to the point above. The more THC in your system, the more at risk your cannabinoid receptors are of being blinded; therefore your memory will take a hit. In the study referenced above, infrequent cannabis users were cleared of any residual cognitive impairments 24 hours after the intake of cannabis (inhaled and/or ingested). A different study that focused on heavy users found that the effects were still evident seven days after. This shows that marijuana's impact on memory can be dependent on your own usage.

Reduced recall of bad memories

Some veterans across the United States are fighting for the right to treat their PTSD with medical marijuana. While studies are in early stages, user testimony often suggests that marijuana effectively suppresses bad memories. For individuals suffering with PTSD, painful memories can be triggered by an event, causing them to resurface; marijuana helps by temporarily disassociating the trigger from the memory. While the inability to recall memories may be problematic for many people, this disassociation is incredibly useful for those suffering from PTSD.

The fact remains that while taking marijuana when studying and writing a test is not advised, the effects cannabis has on memory seem to be quite limited. So long as the dosage isn’t excessive, residual effects may not be as damaging as previously thought. The cognitive impairment associated with THC may also have certain benefits for some individuals. Enjoy and/or medicate in moderation and you can safely assume that you won't wipe your internal hard drive.

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