New study reveals that cannabis really does destroy your memory
As cannabis continues to attain a legal status in more and more places across the globe, thousands - if not millions - of new users are starting to tout it as some kind of wonder drug. And, indeed, it does have some definite benefits. It has proven to have therapeutic advantages in people who suffer from seizures, can help reduce anxiety when taken in small doses, and - on a purely recreational level - makes people feel more relaxed.
Unfortunately, like all good things, it has its downsides.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that the drug can damage a user's memory.
The study, which followed a small sample of 88 men aged 16-25, researchers asked regular marijuana users to either cut down on their intake of the drug or quit it cold turkey. Then, they gave the men some memory tests to do and - surprise, surprise - those who were not using cannabis did better than those who were.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Randi Schuster, the lead author in the study, said that "The ability to learn or 'map down' new information, which is a critical facet of success in the classroom, improved with sustained non use of cannabis."
"Young cannabis users who stop regular - weekly or more - use may be better equipped to learn efficiently and therefore better positioned for academic success.
"We can confidently say these findings strongly suggest abstaining from cannabis helps young people learn, while continuing cannabis use may interfere with the learning process."
It's not all bad news, though. As Dr. Schuster goes on to explain:
"Our findings provide two pieces of convincing evidence. The first is adolescents learn better when they are not using cannabis. The second - which is the good news part of the story - is at least some of the deficits associated with cannabis use are not permanent and actually improve pretty quickly after cannabis use stops."
Of course, this is a very small study, and all the subjects were male and from the same area (Boston). However, past studies have indicated similar findings, with a 2016 study from the same research team showing that weed smokers aged 16 and under had difficulty learning new information.
"There are still a lot of open questions to be studied, including whether attention might improve and memory continues to improve with longer periods of cannabis abstinence," said Dr. Schuster.
Now that we know this information, further studies can be done to determine exactly what chemical in cannabis damages memory and the ability to store new information in young people, and hopefully lead to a safer version of the drug. Until then, however, smokers should be aware of the risks they are taking when they use marijuana, and try to avoid overuse of the substance.
Dr. Schuster's next study will involve young people abstaining from the drug for six months in order to see whether it improves memory. The results will be available next year.