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Marijuana and Memory: Why You Can’t Remember Now but Why You Will Remember Later


Marijuana and Memory: Why You Can’t Remember Now but Why You Will Remember Later

“…What were we just talking about?”

You or someone you know may have uttered this phrase after one too many hits, and if you ever felt like your memory was impaired during the high, you would be correct, but don’t let your mind wander worrying about your overall brain function: although it may be accurate to feel your memory is impaired whilst high, an eight year study in Australia has found no correlation between marijuana use and long-term memory decline.

First let’s look at what exactly causes memory impairment post-toke. According to an article published in Cell, Volume 155, marijuana increases cyclooxygenase-2 signaling in the hippocampus. The sexy-sounding cyclooxygenase-2 or COX-2 is an an inducible enzyme that converts arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) to prostanoids (a subclass of Eicosanoids or signaling molecules that cause inflammation) in the hippocampus.

In short, the increase of COX-2 signaling causes inflammation in the hippocampus, part of the limbic system that deals with the formation of long-term memories.

While it may seem logical that long term marijuana use and subsequent chronic inflammation of the hippocampus could result in cognitive deficit, a study published in Addiction, Volume 106 reveals otherwise.

Data was obtained from 2,404 participants aged 20-24 with 82.3% of participants completing the entire study. The candidates were categorized as light users (smoking monthly or less frequently), heavy (weekly or more often), former or non-users (abstaining for a year or longer). These groups were tested on intelligence and memory three times over the eight year period. They were also surveyed about how their cannabis habits have changed. According to the results:

“…there were no significant between-group differences and only CVLT (California Verbal Learning Test) immediate recall reached adjusted statistically significant longitudinal change associated with changed cannabis use. Specifically, former heavy users improved their performance relative to remaining heavy users.”

This conclusion finds that while heavy users perform more poorly on tests requiring immediate recall, an interpretation reflected in the previous study, the heavy users became indistinguishable from those who had never used if they stopped smoking.



  1. Thai

    January 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    this good facts

  2. manu

    January 29, 2014 at 10:07 am

    short term memory loss is very valuable, and is one of the important benefits of cannabis use. it’s very purifying and refreshing to let go of the day’s physical stress and psychological concerns. as mechoulin says, “don’t think that forgetting is less important than remembering.”

    but more significantly, i wouldn’t call it “memory loss,” but rather remembering, and experiencing the higher self: those deeper thoughts, emotions, and values that one carries deep within ones’ self, which are forgotten (buried) with the stress and activity of day to day life.

  3. Michael Leyvas

    January 29, 2014 at 1:52 am

    I am 33 year’s old I have Hep c
    Will medical marijuana
    Help any way with my hep c
    Can it hurt my liver??? From Wilcox,Arizona waiting for the
    Bill to pass recreational marijuana
    All the way
    Too bad I can’t vote 🙁
    Thank you for your time respectfuly. Michael Leyvas

    • danica c

      February 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

      No it will not hurt your liver. It is as non toxic as a substance can get. Far less than caffeine, aspirin, or even water.

      As for Hep C, im not sure what the symptoms are. If they are pain related then high likely it will help.

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