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How does cannabis affect memory?

by Ties Inc.

2020-07-17-How does cannabis affect memory?

Cannabis use has long been associated with memory loss. But until now, evidence for this has been largely anecdotal. There is an increasing body of research into the potential of cannabis and its effect on human health. Researchers are increasingly understanding how cannabis impacts the human brain and whether it really damages memory.

Memory is divided into short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory stores events temporarily, long-term memory stores information indefinitely.

Memory processing

Current data show that cannabis intoxication can temporarily alter or disrupt memory processing in the short term. This appears to be caused by compounds in cannabis that interfere with neural signaling when they bind to receptors responsible for brain memory. An interrupted short-term memory can indeed affect learning and can also cause loss of interest or concentration problems.
However, early research also shows that cannabis can positively influence neurodegenerative diseases that affect memory, such as Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's Chorea and epilepsy. In mainly animal studies, researchers found that when researchers used components from cannabis, it could slow or even prevent the progression of these diseases - mainly through the production of neurons.

THC vs CBD

These apparently paradoxical effects of the same drug are best explained by two chemicals found in cannabis. Namely delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoids (CBD). We all have naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors in our brains. THC can effectively bind to these receptors and create euphoric effects. However, CBD can disrupt this binding process, dampening the feeling of euphoria.

Different ratios of these two chemicals are found in different types of cannabis. Consuming a cannabis product with THC, but without CBD, increases the risk of developing psychological problems, such as psychosis. However, CBD can be used to treat psychosis. Cannabis with a higher THC content and lower or negligible amounts of CBD appears to have a detrimental effect on short-term memory, especially in adolescents. The main problem is their ability to store and recall information. Fortunately, this is not permanent. But these recent discoveries about the role of THC and CBD in cannabis show that we can no longer say that cannabis itself causes psychosis or is harmful to memory. Rather, it is the type of cannabis and the compounds it contains that can have specific risks or benefits.

Amnesia

And while there is little doubt that some people who use cannabis have impaired memory, it is difficult to determine that cannabis is the cause. One reason for this is that it is difficult to rule out the impact of other agents or drugs that people may have taken - and whether these drugs contributed to this memory impairment. For example, alcohol abuse can also cause brain damage and memory loss. Or, for example, the use of other types of drugs in the past. However, it is difficult to help people with impaired memory as they sometimes remember this period very badly.

Just as higher doses of alcohol can potentially cause brain damage, higher doses or more frequent use of cannabis can also cause long-term memory problems - for example, the ability to learn effectively and the ability to focus on a task. Some people use both alcohol and cannabis, often at the same time, which can exacerbate the potential impact on memory.
New research also suggests that it is cannabis, not alcohol, that is responsible for damage to developing teenage brains. Although alcohol can destroy or seriously damage brain neurons and their signaling functions, this study showed that cannabis actually changes the neural brain tissue responsible for memory. But this change can be reversed within weeks if a person abstains. Although surveys show that fewer young people use both cannabis and alcohol, teenagers do very regularly use the substances together.

Motivation and functioning problems

Research shows that young, frequent cannabis users have thinner temporal and frontal cortex, both of which aid in processing memory. Memory is a crucial tool for learning and studying - but cannabis not only affects memory, it can also reduce motivation to learn. This dual influence reduces the involvement of young people in education and their ability to perform.

However, the use of cannabis at a later age (50 years and older) seems to have only a moderate influence on cognitive functioning and memory. These modest declines are not fully understood and there is a lack of high-quality research in this area. That will have to change, because not only young people use cannabis. As more countries legalize cannabis, the elderly may also want to try it.

Experimental and moderate use of cannabis seems to do little damage to memory. Current research shows that the risk increases the more you use cannabis. While there is still much that researchers don't know about cannabis use, current research data suggests that any memory disorder can be reversed if a person abstains from using it.

Read more theconversation.com (Source, EN)

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