As a psychoactive substance, cannabis has various cognitive effects at the point of use, which generally fade within a few hours. With heavy, long-term use, more permanent cognitive effects may result, although the consensus on this within the scientific community is shaky.
Acute cognitive effects of cannabis
The acute cognitive effects of cannabis are numerous and vary widely from person to person according to several factors including genetic makeup, age, gender, and individual tolerance.
It is believed that the phytocannabinoid Δ⁹-THC is primarily responsible for the cognitive effects of cannabis, as it the only compound contained within cannabis that is known to have a psychoactive effect; however, it is thought that various other cannabinoids including CBD work in synergy with THC to mediate its cognitive effects, dependent on ratio and dose.
The best-known acute cognitive effects associated with cannabis are generally related to memory, learning, and higher executive function. In practical terms, this can mean that while under the influence of cannabis, an individual’s ability to plan, make decisions, maintain attention, solve problems, retain information, and cope with unexpected situations may be compromised to some extent.
Research into the acute cognitive effects of cannabis
An important review of the existing literature published in 2012 notes that researchers first began investigating the acute cognitive effects (those experienced from 0-6 hours after consumption) of cannabis use in the 1970s, and have found consistent evidence of alterations to learning and memory function. However, results of research into cannabis’ effects on higher executive function have been less conclusive.
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