As cannabis use becomes more socially acceptable and more consumers start moving toward the drug, the need for research over how long-term use affects the brain is becoming much more necessary. A new study claims that prolonged, regular cannabis use can have negative effects on brain development and cognition, the effects of which can be seen in midlife. Many of these negative effects reportedly can be reversed or avoided altogether if the proper steps are taken.

The Problem

According to the study, which was published in March, 2022, in The American Journal of Psychiatry, individuals who used cannabis heavily for several years exhibited cognitive deficits and smaller hippocampal volume in midlife. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that deals with memory and learning.

The study followed more than 1,000 participants from birth to age 45. Cannabis use and dependence were assessed at the ages of 18, 21, 26, 32, 38 and 45, and IQ was assessed at ages 7, 9, 11 and 45.

Long-term cannabis users had an average IQ decline of 5.5 points from childhood to midlife and showed signs of decline in areas like learning and processing speed. Long-term cannabis use also led to lower hippocampal volume.

Reverse the Process

If you’re becoming aware of cognitive shortcomings, the good news is that some of it is reversible. Here are a few things you can do to get your mojo back.

Discuss it with your doctor: Ask your doctor about your symptoms and be honest about your cannabis use. Before trying anything, you want to be sure that there isn’t some other cause behind your issues.

Lay off the weed: If there are no other factors to blame your decline on, take a break from cannabis or lower the level of THC you’re consuming. Do this for at least a month so that you can reset tolerance level.

Keep a journal: Make sure you’re keeping track of your progress and note everything down. You never know which details will be of value in the future. Test your cognitive capabilities online or with your doctor and record the results in your journal.

Exercise your body and mind: Bring your cognitive levels back up by engaging your mind with new tasks and giving your body the exercise it needs. Novelty is the key to improved cognition. Find a new hobby that you’ve never tried before that requires some level of physical interaction (no passive hobbies like watching TV or stargazing—you need to be moving your hands or eyes and engaging your mind). Go for walks in unfamiliar places or try out a new sport.

Nip It at the Bud

If you’re reading this article and you’re still in your 20s or 30s, take note of the fact that the recent study found that cannabis consumers who used the drug less than once a week did not suffer from cannabis-related cognitive declines. Using cannabis less often now could save you from cognitive dysfunction in the future.