Short-term memory loss continues 1-2 days after I smoke marijuana.
June 23, 2007 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I smoke marijuana, my short-term memory remains nuked for 1-2 days after I smoke. This symptom doesn't seem to be correlated with the amount of marijuana smoked, and does not reliably happen when I smoke the same marijuana twice (i.e., it's not bad/different weed that causes it). It usually happens when I drink moderate amounts of alcohol in addition to smoking, but not always. Does this happen to other people? Is this harmful? Is it possible to counteract this effect? Does this mean I should completely stop smoking marijuana?

The short-term memory loss I experience is the same kind I get when I'm high, but on the days after, I don't have the "high" feeling. Only the short-term memory loss persists. There is a touch of paranoia as well, but that's probably just from the general sense of confusion I have.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)
This is completely normal and a big reason why people stop smoking MJ - they get tired of 'feeling dumb' all the time.

Anyways, normal and harmless. You should only stop if you feel that this makes smoking 'not worth it'.
posted by unixrat at 7:35 AM on June 23, 2007

In the first few months when I started smoking chronically (I've stopped since, though), I would have periods in which every few seconds I would forget like where I was and what I was doing. So maybe over the stretch of an hour or so, it would be like waking up every few seconds in a Momento kinda way. So I would take a drink, and then it would be like I forgot I took the drink and I'm wondering what the cold sensation is in my throat or what I'm swallowing. It went away after a while, came back maybe if I stopped smoking for a few days and then started back up. People generally thought I was crazy when I tried to describe it to them, so I just figured it was one of the inherent elements of being high that can't be put so well into words.
posted by troybob at 8:31 AM on June 23, 2007

Try to space out your smoking sessions, so that your body (and synapses) have time to flush out the effects. Take a two- to three-day vacation between smoke-outs, during which you limit your chemicals to liquor.

Also, experiment with vaporizers. For many, these produce a clearer, more cerebral high, with fewer of the down notes (such as couch lock and next-day fog-on-the-brain) that smokers cope with.

Consider, too, that the short-term memory loss effects might be partly psychological. Don't let your brain convince itself that it's lost its mojo to THC.

Only daily tokers, and people with undiagnosed mental issues, "feel dumb all the time" due to smoking MJ. If you're not one of the above, your issues may be psychosomatic.
posted by Gordion Knott at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2007

If you are experiencing short term memory loss how can you be sure that you are smoking and drinking in 'moderation'?

Do you have some way to externally verify your consumption or do you find that you tend to be unable to find drink or drugs that you thought you still had.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 8:58 AM on June 23, 2007

This is fairly normal, and stems from inhibition and/or depletion of vasopressin, a hormone involved in memory and other stuff.

I've seen several articles that indicate the use of a vasopressin nasal spray can almost immediately counteract this effect.
posted by TravellingDen at 9:33 AM on June 23, 2007

I'm fairly sure this is normal, just don't smoke as often (or at all).
posted by god particle at 10:19 AM on June 23, 2007

Smoke hash instead.
posted by three blind mice at 10:30 AM on June 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to counteract this effect?

I heard somewhere you can get a nasal spray.
posted by scheptech at 10:52 AM on June 23, 2007

Agreeing that this is fairly normal. I feel residual effects for up to 72 hours. Fasting during and briefly after (fruit juice only) and following up with an intense aerobic workout (like a mountain bike hill climb or a run) seems to minimize or prevent the hangover. Moderation helps too.

I wouldn't characterize this state as "dumb" but limited in some ways. Transference of short term memory to long term is inhibited making it a bad time to memorize new material. Ability to juggle several variables in my head at once is reduced. Coordination and reaction time are slightly impeded.

I'm skeptical about the vasopressin. Apparently caffeine and alcohol suppress vasopressin and they do not have this effect.

As somewhat of an aside regarding the paranoia, I have this theory that it is related to a slight lifting of the veil of subjectivity to your perceptions. I've noticed that when my thoughts drift to a recent disagreement, often I am suddenly able to grasp the person's position, where before it seemed incomprehensible. So, let's face it, if you could really see yourself from others point of view, you would be paranoid all the time. Think about it the next time you toke up, and it will seem really profound ;).
posted by Manjusri at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, you don't really have to worry about doing any significant harm to yourself if you're talking about moderate, intermittent smoking. Whether you should stop entirely depends really on how unpleasant you find this unusually long memory impairment.

Cutting out mixing it with alcohol seems like a no-brainer and an obvious first step, if your impression is correct it will probably cut down the number of incidents. In my past, when smoking up was a relatively routine event, I went through several different phases of how I reacted to it - and I do recall one or two periods where after-effects lasted an unusually long time. I found that taking significant breaks (i.e. months) would change these reactions.

And since the products of smoking do persist in the body long after the notable effects are gone, it seems possible that reducing overall frequency could change the aftereffects.
posted by nanojath at 12:04 PM on June 23, 2007

I know this is a cliche, but that's exactly why it's called dope.
posted by RussHy at 12:08 PM on June 23, 2007

I am going to counter most of what other people have said and say that this is not, in my experience, normal at all. Especially several days after you get high.

Of course if you are just beginning to smoke marijuana, it is much like just beginning to drink. The effects change dramatically as you become acquainted to the drug.
posted by geoff. at 12:24 PM on June 23, 2007

I know this is a cliche, but that's exactly why it's called dope.

posted by BorgLove at 12:41 PM on June 23, 2007

Dope is for dopes!
posted by Bonzai at 1:19 PM on June 23, 2007

Dope derives from a dutch word for sauce, and, in the 1800's referred to liquid opium. It already meant "thick-headed" so it could have been a bit of a double-entendre.

Dopamine is a recent word based on its chemical composition and unrelated to dope. AFAIK marijuana has no direct effect on dopamine levels, but mimics another neurotransmitter: anandamide, which was discovered because of THC.
posted by Manjusri at 1:28 PM on June 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you imagine that "touch of paranoia" is worth mentioning now, just keep smoking and give it some time.
posted by humannaire at 2:51 PM on June 23, 2007

Oh pshaw. Listen to all the reefer madness bullshit in this thread. Counter-example: I've been a regular user here since my teenage years, and all through the years I earned an Ivy League BA and a top-ten PhD. Somehow, I managed to get tenure at one of the top universities in the world and produce many publications while working at my high pressure, high responsibility job. And I never forget a thing. I have a nearly photographic memory for text, and have had it since I was a kid. Any loss is from lack of mental exercise, not lack of capacity. I stun and amuse colleagues and students by citing exact text from memory from books I looked at years ago. Even the page numbers.

"Dope" is slang. It has no scientific meaning.

If you're drinking, all bets are off. That stuff is much worse for you. I'd cut that out first.

One anecdote is as good as another.
posted by spitbull at 5:01 PM on June 23, 2007 [5 favorites]

spitbull, I'd be more impressed with your photographic memory of text if you displayed any ability to understand it. I just reviewed the thread and don't see what "reefer madness bullshit" you are talking about. If you are disputing the temporary impairment of short-term memory, or the relatively long half-life of THC then you are not in accord with mainstream science.
posted by Manjusri at 8:14 PM on June 23, 2007

I used to smoke regularly at Uni, then stopped, but have had similar things when I've smoked since then. I have very mild hangovers but after smoking for at least a half a day, sometimes up to two days, I feel wrong and my brain doesn't work. The answer - I rarely smoke.

I have friends who say similar things. People react to these things differently and it appears their reactions change as they age. Some people are fine, some people have problems. It's like some people who cannot metabolize alcohol the way most people do. They tend not to drink.

If your issues with dope are strong and you don't like them, don't smoke. Or if you can cut back and these symptoms disappear do that.
posted by sien at 9:28 PM on June 23, 2007

FWIW, I've never smoked at all, and I have periods when my short-term memory all but disappears as well. Troybob's description rings true for me.

'Course, maybe I just have a brain tumor or too many body thetans, or something.
posted by hattifattener at 10:01 PM on June 23, 2007

Also, experiment with vaporizers.

I recommend that as well.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:31 PM on June 23, 2007

Actually, the science on short-term memory loss associated with THC consumption is not at all convincing, manjusri. And a lot of people are coming on this thread and saying "oh man, yeah, just wait until you get all paranoid and forget your name."

I haven't forgotten anything I've read seriously in 20 years. I haven't forgotten what I ate for breakfast last week either. Most of my pot-smoking friends are serious intellectuals with excellent memories.

So what is this "science" you speak of? I read the science on marijuana quite closely. What little negative info there is tends to be countered in subsequent studies, if any. And much of the so-called "clinical" science on THC is conducted with government funding and with the explicit intention of pathologizing marijuana use as if it were one of our more dangerous drugs, like beer.
posted by spitbull at 6:09 AM on June 24, 2007

And comment one says people quite smoking pot because they are tired of "feeling dumb all the time.' I offered my own case as an anecdotal rebuttal. I may be a stoner, but I make a very good living with my mind.
posted by spitbull at 6:10 AM on June 24, 2007

And I need to add one more thing: there is clinical science on the use of marijuana and synthetic THC to treat MS and pain disorders and side effects of chemotherapy that shows *improvement* in short term memory from pot smoking.

European Neurology
Vol. 38, Issue 1, pages 44-48
Paul F. Consroe,
"The Perceived Effects of Smoked Cannabis on Patients with Multiple Sclerosis"

So yeah, let's argue the science. Plenty more where that comes from.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 AM on June 24, 2007

And the documentation of "temporary loss of short term memory" refers to the brief refractory period of THC inebriation. So you might as well say, when you are stoned on *anything* you have trouble remembering things. So what? The same is certainly true for alcohol, and in my experience much worse.

The only good advice in this thread is: if you don't like pot, don't smoke it.
posted by spitbull at 6:17 AM on June 24, 2007

I'm not sure who you are trying to convince spitbull, but dishonesty is not a good way to go about it, nor does it lead to worthwhile debate. Personally, I'm one of those who genuinely think the world would be a better place if everyone had a toke now and again. But that doesn't mean I have to ignore the facts.

It is telling that your quote from the thread betrays a memory somewhat less than photographic, and that the only reference you managed to google up only applies to people with multiple sclerosis. Marijuana also may have beneficial effects on memory for Alzheimer's sufferers, but that is equally irrelevant to the average person.

One way to quickly take a read on consensus is to note that even legalization advocacy groups are honest about the effects of marijuana on short term memory. For example:
- marijuana has been shown to degrade short-term memory, concentration, judgment, and coordination at complex tasks including driving"
- "In laboratory studies, subjects under the influence of marijuana ... display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information."

Another way is to read an overview of marijuana research by the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine. Which notes that "A characteristic feature of a marijuana "high" is a distortion in the sense of time associated with deficits in short-term memory and learning", and also speculates that "the long half-life and slow elimination from the body of THC and the residual bioactivity of its metabolite, 11-OH-THC, can prevent substantial abstinence symptoms." In other words, the relatively mild withdrawal symptoms of marijuana may be attributable to its long half-life in the body.

There is some legitimate controversy about whether there are long term negative effects of marijuana on the brain. In my opinion there is no compelling evidence of such. The same is not true for alcohol, and, contrary to your assertion, its effects on memory are not the same as marijuana. In fact, memory impairment associated with alcohol intoxication is indicative of permanent damage to the brain, which is not true for marijuana.
posted by Manjusri at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2007

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