Does high-potency cannabis use impact memory and decision making?

16th July 2021

A recent study is the first in the US to examine the impact on memory and decision making after cannabis use. The researchers believe that it is an area of cannabis research that still lacks a clear understanding.

The results of the study suggest that recreational cannabis consumption has no real effect on the performance of participants’ of a decision-making test.

The study examined 80 people divided into four groups: 20 were sober; 20 vaped cannabis concentrates with more than 60 per cent THC; 20 used cannabis flower that contained at least 20 per cent THC, and 20 used cannabis flower containing 60 per cent THC in addition to CBD.

Following consumption, researchers carried out a series of cognitive tests on the participants to determine any effects on decision-making and memory.

Lead researcher Carrie Cuttler, a psychologist at WSU, said: “We were interested in comparing the relative effects of these very high potency cannabis concentrate products. The ones we were using in this study had to have at least 60 per cent THC.

“It had fewer effects than we were anticipating, especially because we were getting into these very high potency products (that) researchers in the United States, at least, have largely been banned from studying.”

However, the data also shows that cannabis use can actually have an impact on our memory – as in impairments related to free recall, source memory and false memories.

In addition, the researchers asked participants in each group to rate their intoxication following consumption. They found that the ratings of participants in the concentrates group were statistically identical to those using the flower, which could indicate that participants were self-titrating the doses used.

Dr Cuttler added: “So what that’s telling us is that people using these very high potency products are self-titrating, using far less of the drug to achieve the same level of intoxication producing the same level of impairment.”

The researchers revealed that they were cautiously optimistic about these results. Dr Cuttler continued: There’s been a lot of speculation that these really high-potency cannabis concentrates might magnify detrimental consequences, but there’s been almost zero research on cannabis concentrates which are freely available for people to use.”

“I want to see way more research before we come to any general conclusion, but it is encouraging to see that the concentrates didn’t increase harms.”

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