Can Smoking Pot Cause Memory Loss?

Memory loss is possible when a person smokes marijuana, particularly when a ‘high’ is experienced. The question of whether memory loss develops over time depends on many factors. Learn more about how cannabis affects the body and whether this can impact a person’s memory over time.

Cannabinoid Receptors

The main active chemical in marijuana is called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream where THC is carried to the brain and other organs. Cannabinoid receptors are impacted by the presence of THC which triggers reactions at the cellular level. CB1 and CB2 receptors are not psychoactive but when CB1 receptors are stimulated, the chemical reaction can produce both euphoria and impaired short term memory and sense of time.

Memory Loss

Exactly how and why THC impairs memory in the brains of individuals who smoke marijuana is not quite known but one theory suggests memory loss may be due to restricted blood flow to the rain. Other research suggests THC impairs functionality in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for converting information into short term memory. THC alters how information is processed in the hippocampus. Short term memories, therefore, may not register at all in the brain and are lost from the memory bank. Some additional reasons for this may include:

  • THC creates changes to structure of the hippocampus
  • New information does not register
  • New information is irretrievable for at least a few moments (if not longer)
  • Decreased activity in nerve cells impairs memory

Long Term Memory

Long term memory loss and marijuana use is a topic of debate. What is known about impaired memory for users of cannabis are the negative effects on learning and memory for daily users of the drug. Adverse effects can last for days or weeks. A person who smokes marijuana regularly may function at a lower than optimal level most, if not all, of the time.


The debate around marijuana use and memory loss focuses on creating medicinal uses of marijuana which do not have harmful effects. Health risks are not yet known how this can affect a person’s brain, memory or even body as there are some additional health risks associated with marijuana use. THC in marijuana can disturb the brain’s ability to process information in the same way it did before a person used the drug. Retention of new information is challenged by a person’s chronic use of marijuana. Long term effects on memory are not yet known but short term users of the drug have reported side effects regarding memory retention. Chronic use of marijuana has not been studied for long enough to know how detrimental it may be to a person’s overall health over the long term.

Marijuana has addictive properties. If you or a loved one struggles with quitting marijuana, there is help available. The Villa specializes in specific, individualized treatment programs using the latest tools and resources. Call us to find out how we can help you recover from addiction.