Cannabis and memory: the effects on concentration

The effects of cannabis on memory and concentration

Does cannabis help us to concentrate, or does it lower our attention span? Let’s find out together

In the common imagination, when we think of a regular user of cannabis or legal cannabis, we imagine them to be distracted, unable to concentrate, with their head ‘in the clouds’.

But is this the case?

What are the real effects on concentration?

This article will examine the obstacles to our concentration and illustrate (purely for information purposes, we should point out) how phytocannabinoïdes act in our brain.

Woman with concentration problems

Difficulty concentrating: why?

It has happened to everyone at least once that they have to do some work and cannot concentrate: the slightest distraction becomes impossible to ignore, and the quality of work suffers.

But what are the causes?

First, we must never underestimate the importance of sleep, especially quality rest: an unrested individual has cognitive deficiencies, both in learning and the ability to acquire data.

According to the Alhola-Polo-Kantola study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease And Treatment (2007), lack of rest causes a reduction in cognitive function and increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is called the ‘stress hormone‘, and research from the University of Limburg has confirmed that high levels of this hormone lower concentration.

Lack of sleep and high levels of stress are a potentially explosive mixture.

The growing interest in medical cannabis and its relaxing and calming properties is also reflected in this field. But, again, the equation seems simple good rest helps memory and concentration, and CBD promotes relaxation.

But is it?

Let’s find out the mechanisms.

Read also: Cannabis and migraine: here’s what science says

How does cannabis affect the brain?

More and more people are taking CBD as a daily supplement (in CBD oil or hemp light). The various expected benefits are mental and physical relaxation and, consequently, concentration.

It must be said at the outset that scientific research into the effects of cannabis on the brain is mainly inconclusive: it is only recently that scientists have invested energy and effort in the subject.

However, we do have some exciting data from studies published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, suggesting that CBD may activate the body’s endocannabinoid system, helping to improve the stress response. But, again, experimentation in this area is still in its infancy, as evidenced by these data obtained from animal tests, not human trials. Clinical trials will take time.

Experts cannot say precisely how much of an impact CBD has on memory and concentration. But on the other hand, the factors that impair memory and concentration are known, and we have listed them in this paragraph, so we have to wait for science to take its course.

Inflorescences of marijuana

THC, memory and concentration 

We have more data on the regular use of psychoactive cannabis (containing both CBD and THC).

Recent studies conducted in Texas by neuroscientist Sina Aslan show that the beneficial antianxiety effects of CBD are offset by long-term thinking and memory problems in cannabis Sativa users.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) manifests its effects by binding to receptors located in regions of the brain vital for memory (cortex, hippocampus, amygdala).

By scanning the brains of volunteers with three different magnetic resonance imaging techniques, the researchers showed that regular cannabis use would reduce the volume of the brain in the long term but increase neurological interconnections. In particular, long-term users were found to have a narrowing of the orbitofrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and mental processing. However, it would be compensated by an increase in structural and functional connectivity of the brain.

Therefore, the warning is aimed at avoiding long-term consumption, especially abuse: excessively high quantities of phytocannabinoids can damage the motor and cognitive faculties, including memory, and in the rarest and most serious cases, lead to full-blown psychotic episodes in predisposed individuals.

No one would recommend taking marijuana before strenuous and potentially risky activities such as driving.

What about the study? Controversy reigns supreme in this area, but a couple of guidelines can be drawn.

Firstly, cannabis should not be administered to a developing brain. It means no children, no adolescents. It is because of the apparent risks of alterations to the brain and its functions at the crucial development moment.

Cannabis advocates contrast the risk of cognitive impairment with the benefits of reduced anxiety and increased creativity. In addition, some sportsmen and women claim to use marijuana to facilitate training and recovery from injury.

However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support either theory, which is why people are increasingly looking forward to scientific research.

Read also: Legalization of cannabis in France: all the news

Cannabis and memory: conclusions

This article presents the mechanisms that impair concentration and memory in humans and discusses the possible effects of CBD and THC in this area.

Indeed, after all the doubts and grey areas, general assumptions remain, such as the fact that these substances are not recommended for brains that are not yet formed or the danger of abuse, but studies on the subject continue.

That said, if you want to read the latest news on cannabis, have a look at the other articles in this section and visit our store to buy CBD cannabis, legal hashish and CBD oil.

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