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Heavy alcohol, marijuana use linked to memory issues

Image: Westword
Image: Westword

Recent studies are showing that both heavy and prolonged alcohol and marijuana consumption can lead to short-term memory issues in middle age.

A study in the journal Neurology claims that those who have 2.5 drinks of wine, beer, or hard liquor daily saw accelerated memory loss by up to 6 years and a decline in cognitive functions. The biggest impact was to middle aged men. Fewer women participated in the study, and researchers were unable to conclude what the impact is on middle aged women.

Research associate Severine Sabia states “heavy alcohol consumption is associated with higher risk of vascular disease which, in turn, may increase the risk of cognitive impairment. Furthermore, heavy alcohol consumption has detrimental short and long-term effects on the brain, including direct neurotoxic effect, pro-inflammatory effects, and indirect impact via cerebrovascular disease and vitamin deficiency.”

It has also been found that cognitive impairments can persist long after a person has stopped drinking.

As for cannabis consumption, a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, concluded that people who smoked marijuana on a daily basis for a period of five years or more had poorer verbal memory in middle age than people who didn’t smoke, or who smoked less. This association remained even after researchers controlled for a variety of other factors known to affect cognitive performance, such as age, education, use of other substances, and depression.

After excluding current users and adjusting for potential distortions, cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana remained significantly associated with worse verbal memory, meaning that people have a slightly lower rate of memorization when spoken to.

However, long-term consumption of cannabis was not found to have an effect on other cognitive functions.

With the legalization of marijuana already underway, new data is expected to begin pouring in about its effects as researchers are less restricted in how they study the plant and its consumption.

Marijuana legalization advocates have long argued that cannabis is a far safer substance than alcohol, while prohibitionists maintain that America cannot afford to legalize another dangerous drug.

While both the negative and positive effects of cannabis are still yet to be determined, solid evidence shows that alcohol, when not consumed in moderation, can have a deadly impact on society.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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