Cannabis and its effects on the Human Memory

Cannabis and its effects on the Human Memory

How does cannabis affect human memory? This is a question that has raised by many over time. Studies and research have been done looking into the answers of this question.

So what does science say about this question?

Memory is our ability to save knowledge and information and be able to access it for use later. Generally, it is divided into three areas of cognitive memory;

  • Short-term memory - It can be understood as the ability to keep or save information in an active state for a short period of time usually for about 30 seconds or so. 
  • Long-term memory - Is the ability to save and remember knowledge or information in a more permanent way. It can be further divided into different categories such as implicit memory, autobiographical memory and including explicit memory. Short-term memory can be moved to long-term memory in two ways which are attention and emotion.
  • Sensory memory - Holds information within seconds for human senses such as sound, sight, smell, taste, touch to enable brain processing.

Now let get back to our question how does cannabis affect human memory?

Science indicates that cannabis affects both sensory, short-term and long-term memory. When one smokes cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemicals enter the bloodstream and is transported to the brain.

When these components in THCV get into the brain, they impair memory function. This happens by activating the endocannabinoid system. Once in the brain, these chemicals have surprising effects on memory function by activating the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is brain parts that are associated with memory.

For example, The highest concentration of CB1 receptors, which respond to tetrahydrocannabinol, is found in a structure in the brain known as the hippocampus that is responsible for managing memory response.

It is believed that endocannabinoid system aid for destroying memories, enabling people to forget negative memories and experiences.

Short-Term Effects

THCV has an immediate effect which is usually temporary in your memory.

Normally users experience impairment in their short-term memory, and inability to form new long-term memories. However, the users will still be able to recall existing memories. Implying that Cannabis does not make you forget what you already knew.

As well we can say that the effects of marijuana on long-term memory are only limited to the creation of new memories. In addition to that, the impairments disappear once a person becomes sobers.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term cannabis users indicate worse results compared to those who never smoked on tests of verbal memory and working memory. The results remain the some even when the users have not smoked at the time of a test.

Putting that into consideration, it can conclude that frequent cannabis users have a problem with holding information and recalling verbal information (words). However, the studies are not clear whether this effects are permanent or disappear when one stops using marijuana over a long period of time.

The researcher has also shown that former heavy cannabis smokers indicate no memory impairments, compared to impairments recorded by those who were still marijuana smokers.

Note that conflicting result of research as suggested by the expert is because some people take longer to recover when they stop using cannabis while other take a short time to recover.


The effect of cannabis on human memories varies with regard to the usage. The occasional users record temporary impairment in both memories which goes away when the sober up. On the other hand, frequent users indicate memory impairment even if they are sober or sometimes longer. However, there are no effects of marijuana on already existing memory.