Short-Term Memory Loss and Marijuana

Updated: Jan 11

It happens to everyone - especially as we get older. And it definitely happens to marijuana users: short-term memory loss. This is when you repeatedly ask yourself, “Where did I leave my keys?” or “Wait - what was I doing?” or the like. For new MJ users who have sharp memories, it can be startling and even scary. Suddenly your short-term memory is not quite there.

Personal story time: when I started smoking in my college years, I was not prone to forgetting the “little things”, so for me it was a new sensation, and not one that I was all-together comfortable with. I thought I was becoming the space cadet! It probably didn’t help that my college-time boyfriend jokingly said, “You’re not an airhead, you’re a burn out!” Well, I knew I wasn’t a burn out, but I definitely thought pot made me forget things.

woman looking under bed for lost keys
"Where are my keys?". Familiar question when short-term memory loss hits you.

Fast forward a couple of decades and we know so much more about why this happens. We’ve come a long way since my college years of smoking and suffering from sometimes-embarrassing short-term memory loss (STML) from weed.

What causes marijuana short-term memory loss?

Though research is limited with marijuana still being listed on the federal government’s schedule 1 of illicit drugs (c’mon federal government, already …), scholars and researchers tend to agree that short-term memory loss from marijuana is due to THC interrupting the neurons that build memory.

The THC in marijuana can bring on temporary short-term memory loss.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive chemical in weed that - in a nutshell, there is much more to this process - activates the endocannabinoid system which is intertwined with neurons that control your memory. Fortunately, this is not for a long time and you will regain you normal memory functions in a short matter of time.

It should be noted that since the research on cannabis is limited and has only just really begun, it’s not quite known what the effects are on memory or other bodily functions. But from us long-term users, we can assure you that there really isn’t anything alarming. And the neurons that help create our memories are lost by simply getting older anyway.

Things you can do to help manage your STML

  • Realize before you partake that this can happen. Knowing this before you partake might help you to be a little more on the “hyper” side of being aware.

  • Especially if you’re just starting out with MJ, be sure that you don’t have anything important planned that involves remembering details or small things like telephone numbers, driving directions or the like.

  • Have a memo pad handy - the ones like you always see TV detective use when interrogating someone! I know this sounds “old school” but it works. Plus you can just rip out the pages on which you jot things down afterwards. Side note to this one: I wouldn’t recommend using voice notes or typing text notes in your phone as managing these is just one more thing you have to do while your brain is getting used to the MJ in your system.

  • Forget post-its. They are not a good solution for someone who is stoned!

  • I used to get frustrated with myself and sometimes lightly scold myself in my self-thinking. I also wouldn’t recommend this. Have fun with it! Everyone - MJ users or not - has those blank-brain moments. Just have fun with it; joke around with yourself and jot down whatever it was you forgot. This will help you remember such things in the future.

  • For me, caffeine helps stimulate my brain that, if anything, gets me more aware that my THC might be affecting the brain temporarily. We have an entire post on MJ and caffeine, so be sure to read that one for how caffeine can also help in this suggestion.

Herbal Supplements for Brain Functions

Though the jury is out with this, some herbal supplements can also help. I really like taking ginkgo and guarana - either together or separately. I like that these are natural and have been used for centuries in some cultures. Guarana comes in either a powder form that can be added to almost any drink (I recommend hot tea or Crystal Light drinks), or tablet form. Ginkgo is primarily available in tablet form. Both can be bought in almost every herbal food/supplement store.

Herbal supplements like ginseng & ginkgo can help support brain activity.
Wait, Don't Forget

The biggest take away is to realize that you - like most - may experience short-term memory loss when using marijuana. This is true if you smoke, vape or eat it. Just be prepared for it and for new users, always start low and go slow.

Happy smoking, vaping and partaking!
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