Does CBD Cause Short-Term Memory Loss?

One of the most destructive stereotypes when it comes to the advancement of this incredible supplement, CBD, is the popularized perception of the short-term-memory-challenged “stoner.” Most Hollywood depictions of marijuana smokers include a forgetful, snack-gorging numbskull who laughs at everything a little too much. CBD oil and straight ganja are two very different things, though, and contrary to beliefs held by misguided legislators, CBD does NOT cause short-term memory loss. Let’s take a look at how THC, CBD and memory loss are connected. First of all, let it be understood that your brain’s own brand of cannabinoids, specifically those that activate the CB1 receptor, have always had a memory-related purpose: that of a chalkboard eraser of sorts. Your brain decides, for example, that you don’t need to memorize the face of every passenger on your subway ride to work. After deciding that a certain memory is, frankly, not worth remembering, the brain sends it to the recycle bin using the endocannabinoid system. Like a computer with finite disc space, your brain needs to “scrub” unimportant memories in this way to function efficiently. So, does this mean that CBD and memory loss are directly connected? On the contrary.

Neither Dazed Nor Confused

Researchers examining the link between CBD and memory loss have concluded, though more research is needed, that CBD in fact doesn’t cause memory loss. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology oversaw the administration of cannabis to more than 134 participants. The participants who used (smoked) cannabis with high levels of CBD demonstrated no measurable short-term memory loss. So, wait – what does this mean about CBD and memory loss? Isn’t one of the functions of the endocannabinoid system to “wipe” one’s short-term memory? Since it didn’t in the case of high-CBD marijuana, we can actually deduce two things:
  1. CBD doesn’t increase CB1 receptor activity – In another post about common myths (internal hyperlink to “cutting through the haze: common myths post) surrounding CBD, we describe that cannabidiol doesn’t actually increase the presence of cannabinoids at the receptor level. In fact, it decreases it. This is reinforced by the fact that the memory-loss effect, which is associated with CB1, did not occur.
  2. CBD is not the cannabinoid responsible for memory loss – The only possible explanation for the proven memory-compromising effects of marijuana, given the above, is that a component other than CBD has to be responsible.
  Alright, we’ll stop it with the suspenseful “whodunit” stuff: it’s THC’s fault!

It’s Always THC’s Fault

In the same study referenced above, about half of the participants were given high-THC (and low cannabidiol) cannabis for the duration. This group did display significant short-term memory loss. So, at this junction, we know two simple facts: first, CBD and memory loss are not connected. Secondly, THC and memory loss are connected. While our main point has been settled, another critical finding was offered up by the same journal that performed the first study.

All Together Now

Once they knew that THC was the culprit, and that CBD and memory loss were not linked, the examiners made a point to assess the link between CBD and memory in high-THC cannabis users. They suspected it might have an effect because CBD has been shown to actually offset the action of THC in numerous situations. So, in this study, everyone was smoking high-THC cannabis. Half of the participants smoked high-THC/low-CBD cannabis, and the other half smoked high-THC/high-CBD cannabis. Sure enough, the second group showed much less pronounced memory loss! So, not only does CBD not impair your short-term memory, it actually protects it. Mind blown? So was everyone’s in the study. RESOURCES