A Review of ∆-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol’s Effect on the Hippocampus and Evaluation of Behavioral Memory Impairment in Acute and Chronic Cannabis Users
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The history of marijuana use for clinical and recreational purposes dates back centuries, but its legalization in the United States by several states has produced record sales. Therefore, there is also a record amount of people who are experiencing the acute, and potentially chronic, effects of ∆-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana. The toxicity of THC to various brain regions has been underestimated for quite some time, and thus, this review seeks to evaluate the current scientific consensus on the dangers of THC neurotoxicity to hippocampal cells; another goal is to investigate the resultant impairment to memory that repeated endocannabinoid activation may proliferate. The results of this evaluative review indicate that chronically cannabis-dependent users do show poorer performance on behavioral memory tasks in comparison to light/non-users of marijuana. This is backed up by evidence in animal studies that found THC to produce decreased viability of hippocampal neurons. Although, while clinical trials may demonstrate inhibited performance on memory tasks in response to chronic THC exposure, the day-to-day effect of marijuana to an individual’s memory may vary greatly depending on the total volume of marijuana that is consumed, and how often the brain is being insulted. In conclusion, increased chronic exposure to THC is associated with an increased risk for developing impairments to memory and deficits to optimal cognitive functioning.