FAST SUMMARY - Why We Forget and How to Remember Better - Andrew E. Budson



Here is a summary of the key points about how alcohol, cannabis, and drugs affect memory and brain health:


  • Impairs both procedural memory (skills, habits) and episodic memory (events). For example, it interferes with driving ability and remembering names or details from the night before.

  • In large amounts over time, it kills brain cells and shrinks the brain, especially the frontal lobes. This impairs reasoning, judgment, problem solving, and memory.

  • Moderate drinking (1 drink a day for women, 2 for men) may help episodic memory and reduce dementia risk. Heavy drinking increases dementia risk.


  • THC impairs episodic memory and attention. CBD may improve some aspects of cognition.

  • Long term heavy use, especially starting in adolescence, may impair reasoning and verbal memory.

  • Occasional use in adulthood is unclear but doesn't appear too detrimental to memory.

Illegal Drugs

  • Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine damage the brain's dopamine system, impairing memory, attention, reasoning, and impulse control.

  • Opioids like heroin alter the brain's opioid system, impairing memory encoding and retrieval.

  • Hallucinogens like LSD alter perception and can produce false memories or flashbacks.

The best advice is to avoid illegal drugs, heavy alcohol and cannabis use, especially during adolescence and young adulthood when the brain is still developing. Occasional, moderate drinking in adulthood appears fairly safe.

Here is a TLDR summary of the key points from the content:

  • Alcohol can damage the cerebellum over time, impairing procedural memory related to coordination and movement. Even moderate drinking impairs episodic memory encoding and retention.

  • Cannabis also impairs episodic and prospective memory, but these effects appear reversible with abstinence. CBD may improve memory while THC impairs it.

  • Other recreational drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and opioids also impair memory and can have permanent effects. Psychedelics impair working memory and non-autobiographical episodic memory.

In summary, many recreational substances can negatively impact memory, with effects ranging from transient to permanent. Strategies like abstinence and moderation can mitigate these effects. Understanding the risks is important for making informed choices about use.

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