What Drugs Cause Memory Loss?

What Drugs Cause Memory Loss?
This entry was posted in Addiction on by .

When you think about the effects illegal drugs can have, do you think about memory loss? Many people don’t and are often surprised to hear that this is a potential side effect of drug use. When you’re talking about drugs and memory loss, it’s important to group alcohol in there as well. Alcohol can impact the brain just as much, if not more, than some illegal drugs. We will look at the drugs that impact brain functions and what drugs cause memory loss. We’ll also examine how treatment at Clear Life Recovery can help patients overcome their substance abuse disorder and lead a sober life.

Which Drugs Cause Memory Loss or Memory Problems?


When alcohol enters the blood, it can passively enter the brain and lead to memory problems. [1] Alcohol can do this because of its effects on the area of the brain known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus is important for learning and forming memories.

As alcohol reaches the hippocampus, it decreases the electrical activity of neurons when it binds to specialized proteins that are embedded in the neuronal membrane. [1] The fewer impulses reaching the hippocampus disrupt short-term memory and can lead to blackouts the next day.

When people use alcohol repeatedly and binge drunk, it can damage the hippocampus and lead to more serious cognitive effects and memory loss.


The impact on the hippocampus is also seen with marijuana use. Evidence from animal research shows that marijuana use during development can cause long-term or possibly permanent changes to the brain. [2] It’s also been shown that cannabis can lead to memory loss at any stage of life because of the psychoactive component (THC) that is found in cannabis. THC is the compound in marijuana that causes the high that many users experience.


Ecstasy, also known as molly and MDMA, is a recreational drug that can severely impact the brain. A study found that people who used ecstasy over two years had problems with memory, working memory, and how quickly they processed information. [3]


Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system by increasing nerve activity in the brain and spinal cord to make people feel more energetic and alert. It can also lead to memory loss. One study of people who used cocaine and those who did not use cocaine found that after one year, those who used the drug had worse cognitive skills, especially with working memory. [4]

Special K

Special K or ketamine acts on different brain chemicals, leading to hallucinations. It also inhibits the hippocampus, impairing memory. Research has shown that when small doses of ketamine are used for medical practices, it does not affect memory, but when the drug is abused, it can lead to memory loss. [5]


PCP, also known as phencyclidine, or angel dust, leads to delusions and hallucinations. It is also known to cause memory loss. With long-term use, it can lead to problems with speech and learning.

Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms or psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic drug that’s commonly made by fungi. It results in an altered perception of time and has been found to impair working memory. This is the part of short-term memory that deals with immediate memories like directions and remembering a phone number.


While many opioids are prescribed, other opioids, like heroin, are illegal. Both of them have been widely abused, leading to an opioid epidemic in the U.S.

When people abuse prescription and illegal forms of opioids, it can lead to memory problems. An opioid use disorder can impact working memory. Working memory is an important cognitive function that is essential for monitoring other activities.

Can the Damage be Reversed After Drugs Cause Memory Loss?

There is no standard answer to the question of whether memory loss from drug use can be reversed for everyone with a substance abuse disorder. Some studies have shown that with abstinence from drugs like cocaine, the memory loss problems may be reversed. But, since the effects of drugs will differ from person to person, this may not be the case for all.

Brain cells can regenerate. Over time, any cells that are damaged due to drug use can recreate themselves. But, it’s unknown how long the process can take or how much of a person’s memory can be restored.

Get Help for a Substance Abuse Disorder at Clear Life Recovery

At Clear Life Recovery, we help people overcome various substance abuse disorders. Our services include treating alcohol use disorders and several different types of drug use disorders.

Our treatment programs can help people battling heroin, cocaine, marijuana, opiate, and other drug dependencies. We understand that everyone’s drug addiction is different and that their treatment plans need to reflect that.

Treatment plans can include a variety of group and private therapy sessions as well as other therapy options. At Clear Life Recovery, we offer therapies like fitness therapy, anxiety therapy, nutrition therapy, and much more. Patients can determine which therapies work best for them as they work towards sobriety.

For more information on how drugs can impact memory loss and about the treatment programs we offer at Clear Life Recovery, contact us 24/7 or reach out to us online. Our team is here to get you the help you need to live a sober life.



[1] https://sites.duke.edu/apep/module-3-alcohol-cell-suicide-and-the-adolescent-brain/content-alcohol-memory-and-the-hippocampus/

[2] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672089/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24651468/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809869/