Thursday, March 23, 2023

Pot Smokers Prone to False Memories

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A new study that was conducted showed that people who smoke marijuana were more prone to have distortions in their memory, and could even imagine things that never really happened. The study was conducted by researchers from the Human Neuropsychopharmacology group at the Biomedical Research Institute of Hospital de Sant Pau and from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. This group was in collaboration with the Brain Cognition and Plasticity group of the Bellvitge Institute for Biomedical Research. The study also showed that people who smoke weed have a less active hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for storing memories, and this was the first time this has been proven using brain images.

pot mn distribution ringThe study was published in Molecular Psychiatry, with the results showing that chronic weed smokers could have worsening age-related memory problems. For the study, the researchers used a group of chronic weed smokers and a group of non-smokers, with the smokers having stopped consuming weed one month prior to the study starting. The researchers had the groups work on learning various words, then after a few minutes, the researchers showed the groups those words plus some new words. The new words the groups were shown were either related or unrelated to the words they first saw semantically, and they were all asked which group of words belonged in the first group. The group who smoked a lot of pot thought that they had already seen the semantically related words in the first group at a higher rate than the control group, which was the non-smokers. The researchers then used magnetic resonance imaging to look at the brains of the people in both groups. The brain scans showed that the people who smoked weed regularly ended up with a lower activation of certain areas of the brain responsible for memory and overall cognitive function.

The researchers were able to find that although the group of smokers had not smoked in a month, their hippocampus showed lower levels of activity than healthy non-smokers. The researchers had noted that the more weed the participants in the study smoked, the lower the levels of functioning were, and the worse they were at remembering events as they really happened. When the group thought they saw the semantically similar words in the first set of words, this showed the researchers how pot smokers could distort or alter reality due to the memory issues, which means false memories can take the place of real memories.

The really important results of this study was that it showed pot smokers to have more difficulties learning new information, retaining that information, and have a harder time remembering events as they really happened. These memory problems were occurring even after 30 days clean off of the pot, which shows that there could very well be long-term damage done to the hippocampus if you consume weed regularly. The hippocampus is also responsible for helping us determine what is real and what is not, which is why the pot smokers actually had an increase in imaginary or distorted events. Considering people do have memory problems the older they get, the chronic weed smokers could end up having an even worse age-related memory problem than most, and it could actually start earlier than what most age-related memory problems do. One scary thing about this study is that it shows pot smokers have an inability to often times tell the difference between reality and imagination, and this could wind up causing them a lot of personal problems, especially in interpersonal relationships.

The results of this study hopefully will help the medical community find a better way to treat people who are addicted to weed, although many chronic users say pot addiction is not possible. People who smoke pot also need to think about the results of this study, because it shows that even stopping does not stop the effects it has on the brain long-term. The best thing to do is to stop smoking if you smoke, because the more you smoke, the worse your hippocampus is and will become as you get older.


Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.


  1. From the study: “Cannabis users had taken the drug an average of around 42,000 times.”

    They really are grasping at straws to show some deleterious effect of cannabis now. They could try to do the same study with alcohol for comparison, however, the subjects are unlikely to survive that usage pattern.

    Maybe it is mainly people with a tendency to “live in their own world” who are able to justify such excessive use of cannabis? It is quite possible this small anomaly preceded cannabis use.


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