Dr. David Pompei, PharmD, MS
In this article, we will answer the questions, “does weed cause memory loss?”, “why does weed cause memory loss?”, and “what to do about memory loss from weed?”
Memory loss is a common and well-known side effect of chronic cannabis use. The stoner with memory issues is a staple in nearly every stoner comedy movie. But is it true that weed causes memory loss or is it a myth?
There is evidence that chronic cannabis consumption impairs short term memory. Why does weed cause memory loss? Most psychoactive effects from cannabis are caused by THC binding to CB1 receptors in the brain. THC creates its effects by binding to receptors in “brain regions that are vital for memory formation, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex.”
Studies have revealed that heavy THC exposure is associated with reduced brain volume in several areas of the brain, particularly the hippocampus. The hippocampus is part of the limbic system and plays a role in consolidating information into short-term, long-term, and spatial memory. The hippocampus seems to be particularly sensitive to heavy cannabis use, and reduced hippocampus volume caused by heavy cannabis use is related to worse memory.
Studies indicate that acute cannabis exposure increases cerebral blood flow, but chronic cannabis exposure leads to decreased cerebral blood flow. Sustained inadequate blood flow can damage tissue, and the brain is particularly vulnerable to this type of damage. Reduced blood flow to the brain may be another reason why chronic cannabis use impairs memory.
Interestingly, CBD has been shown to increase blood flow to the hippocampus.
A recent study suggests that there may be additional mechanisms at play that explain why weed causes memory loss. As we discussed, most of the psychoactive effects of cannabis are created by THC binding to CB1 receptors in the brain.
Researchers discovered that there are CB1 receptors on the mitochondria of nerve cells, including on the mitochondria of nerve cells in the hippocampus. Mitochondria are organelles that exist in every complex cell, and serve a variety of purposes from turning sugar, fat, and protein into chemical energy, to recycling waste products, to playing a role in cell death (apoptosis).
The researchers determined that when you consume cannabis, THC activates CB1 receptors on the mitochondria in the hippocampus. This interaction alters mitochondrial activity and reduces cellular respiration, which is the process by which nutrients are converted to energy. Mice genetically engineered to lack CB1 receptors in the hippocampus did not experience memory loss from cannabis, confirming that this side effect is due to the presence of CB1 receptors in this region of the brain.
Here are some general suggestions on how to mitigate side effects from cannabis, and then we will explore some specific suggestions about how to fix memory loss.
Try a new product
Different cannabis products will contain different chemical compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes, which may exert distinct effects. Use Jointly’s Product Finder to discover new top-rated products.
Try a new ingestion method
Additionally, the way you ingest a product will change how it affects you. Smoking a joint of cannabis flower may produce slightly different effects from vaporizing it, although both ingestion methods involve heating cannabis and inhaling the active compounds. Each ingestion method has its own advantages and may produce different effects or side effects. To learn how different weed ingestion methods produce different effects, read our article The Best Way to Take Cannabis for Wellness Purposes.
Add in a companion food
Did you know that weed companion foods can enhance your cannabis experience in different ways? Mangoes, dark chocolate, green tea, and thyme are all weed companion foods. Chemical compounds in these foods may alter your cannabis experience, and potentially mitigate adverse side effects like drowsiness. To learn about these foods and how to add them into your cannabis wellness routine, check out our article Do These Foods Get You Higher?
Find your minimum effective dose
Most adverse side effects from cannabis are caused by ingesting too high of a dose of THC. While you cannot die from ingesting too much cannabis, a THC overdose is a real risk. The single most effective way to mitigate side effects is to microdose and titrate up your dose until you find the minimum effective dose of cannabis to get the effect you want.
Turn the dials on 15 factors
According to cannabis experts, there are at least 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience and play a major role in whether a cannabis product is giving you the feeling you want, or producing adverse side effects like memory loss. Maybe you will discover that a workout before using cannabis minimizes any memory impairment, even when all other factors are kept the same. The Jointly app lets you to track the 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience. As you optimize how you consume cannabis, your favorite cannabis products will perform better for you.
One of the most common side effects of chronic cannabis use is memory loss. Based on the mechanism of action, it may be difficult to eliminate this side effect. However, taking a CBD product along with THC may help mitigate memory loss as CBD buffers the effects of THC and can increase blood flow to the hippocampus. When we get more data about how Jointly users are mitigating memory loss, we will update this section with specific suggestions.
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If you're ready to discover new products and reach your goals, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or explore your matches on the Jointly website.
Whether you want to improve sleep, relieve daily stress, or just relax and refresh, Jointly can help you reach your goals with cannabis.
With Jointly, match with top-rated products, and build lists of your favorites to save, share, and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
Jointly also helps you track your cannabis experiences through reflections that help you understand what’s working, and what’s not. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your experiences.
So if you're ready to enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or explore your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.