Does THC affect your memory? Fact or fiction. 

How does cannabis affect memory? In an effort to summarize current thinking, Amsterdam researchers reviewed more than 50 studies. 

It turns out there’s an important distinction between the short-term effects after smoking and the long-term effects of consistent cannabis use over a period of time. 

Evidence shows active cannabis use is associated with short-term memory impairment. Dose-dependent and time-bound, the nature of the effects vary based on factors like potency, consumption method, and personal health.

Learning memory, attention control, and motor functions are altered after smoking cannabis with THC. Challenges with immediate recall (as in, being able to remember something immediately after learning it) are most commonly reported in THC users. 

There is no delayed recall (which is, being able to remember info after a period of rest) in an episodic memory task. Episodic memory can be described as the ability to conjure up long-term information + re-experience personal events. 

Memory performance and brain functionality seem to only be impaired in people who are actively testing positive for THC. In fact, researchers noted, “the effects of cannabis on memory performance and related alterations in brain activity fade with abstinence.”

How does almost daily, long-term THC use affect memory? Long-term changes of regular, everyday consumption are still being investigated, but there is no sufficient evidence to support lasting effects after discontinuing use. 

The rapid increase of research into the effects of memory has provided us with answers AND questions. A better understanding of personal history, plus a combination of psychological, neurological, and neurobiological studies are needed. Despite a slow start, cannabis research is breaking ground. 


Neuroscience of Addiction (NofA) Lab, Department of Psychology
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Center (ABC)
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

photo via Unsplash cc: Natasha Connell

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