Abstinence Can Reverse Cannabis-Induced Memory Impairment In Adolescents

Adolescents and young adults who consume cannabis may experience diminished memory abilities. Fortunately, all they have to do is take a break from smoking to see big improvements.

Previous research has shown that regular cannabis consumption in teens and young adults can lead to reduced memory abilities. However, a new study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that after about a month of abstinence, those memory impairments will significantly improve.

"At least some of the deficits associated with cannabis use are not permanent and actually improve pretty quickly after cannabis use stops," Dr. Randi Schuster, the study's lead author, told Science Daily.

Schuster and his team evaluated the cognitive performance of 88 people between the ages of 16 and 25 who claimed to consume marijuana at least once a week. The participants were split into two groups, one that would continue their regular cannabis consumption and another that would abstain for a period of 30 days. Over that month-long period, the participants were regularly tested and the results of the two groups were compared.

While not all forms of cognitive functioning improved after abstaining from cannabis for 30 days, memory did. The group that continued to consume cannabis during the study period didn't show any signs of cognitive improvement. The biggest improvements were seen in the abstaining group's ability to learn and recall new information.

"The ability to learn or 'map down' new information, which is a critical facet of success in the classroom, improved with sustained non-use of cannabis." Schuster said.

Schuster says there is still research to be done on whether other impairments associated with regular marijuana consumption are improved over longer periods of abstinence. He hopes to address some of those question in a larger, follow-up study that evaluates how cannabis affects the cognitive functioning of youths aged 13 to 19.

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