The chronic effects of cannabis on memory in humans: a review
Memory problems are frequently associated with cannabis use, in both the short- and long-term. To date, reviews on the long-term cognitive sequelae of cannabis use have examined a broad range of cognitive functions, with none specifically focused on memory. Consequently, this review sought to examine the literature specific to memory function in cannabis users in the unintoxicated state with the aim of identifying the existence and nature of memory impairment in cannabis users and appraising potentially related mediators or moderators. Literature searches were conducted to extract well-controlled studies that investigated memory function in cannabis users outside of the acute intoxication period, with a focus on reviewing studies published within the past 10 years. Most recent studies have examined working memory and verbal episodic memory and cumulatively, the evidence suggests impaired encoding, storage, manipulation and retrieval mechanisms in long-term or heavy cannabis users. These impairments are not dissimilar to those associated with acute intoxication and have been related to the duration, frequency, dose and age of onset of cannabis use. We consider the impact of not only specific parameters of cannabis use in the manifestation of memory dysfunction, but also such factors as age, neurodevelopmental stage, IQ, gender, various vulnerabilities and other substance-use interactions, in the context of neural efficiency and compensatory mechanisms. The precise nature of memory deficits in cannabis users, their neural substrates and manifestation requires much further exploration through a variety of behavioural, functional brain imaging, prospective and genetic studies.