Study suggests smoking marijuana lowers IQ, professor and students weigh in

Charlotte Bodak/Staff Photographer According to an article in Time Magazine, "people who started using cannabis weekly before they turned 18 and continued to use heavily into adulthood lost an average of eight IQ points over that period."

The use of marijuana by college students is a common recreational and medicinal activity, but what are the risks they take every time they light up?

One study by Madeline Meier and her colleagues of Duke University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the use of marijuana lowers IQ.

“People who started using cannabis weekly before they turned 18 and continued to use heavily into adulthood lost an average of eight IQ points over that period,” an article in Time Magazine states.

Although it is not a question that the use of marijuana does affect functioning, some students who are active users think their IQ has not been affected.

A Grand Rapids sophomore who wishes to remain anonymous said she recreationally smokes marijuana two to three times a month and said it hasn’t affected her academic life.

“It makes me think longer about things and takes me longer to figure things out,” she said.

She said she doesn’t smoke when she knows she has a lot to do because it slows the process.

A friend of hers has been affected by smoking marijuana due to his obsessive use.

“It sort of affected his motivation,” she said. “He was never really socially apt, but it sort of pushed him farther down on the social totem pole because he didn’t really know how to act to begin with.”

The study also suggests that marijuana affects brain development.

Psychology Faculty Justin Oh-Lee said susceptibility of the brain is increased during puberty.

“Virtually all abused drugs, not just cannabis, increase vulnerability of the brain to alterations that result in cognitive and memory impairment,” he said.

An anonymous student said his memory has been affected immensely from smoking marijuana.

“I will go into a room and totally forget what I was doing,” he said. “It’s one of the effects I’ve noticed from smoking. Or sometimes I won’t remember things from a week ago.”

He said he doesn’t think it makes him “dumb.”

“Smoking does keep my brain active,” he said. “I think deeply about a lot of things, and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.”

Oh-Lee said the Duke study is extremely reputable and comes from a high-impact journal.

However, collectively, he said there is not sufficient evidence to support the conjecture that cannabis is directly compromising brain development to affect IQ level and cognitive function.

When it comes to whether or not to use marijuana medicinally, Oh-Lee said this should be a personal and medical decision.

“But, based on a number of studies, like Meier et al.’s study, cannabis use during younger age appears to be more harmful to cognition than during adulthood,” he said. “Accordingly, the medical use of marijuana in adults, to relieve pain or nausea and to combat other serious medical conditions, may still be considered as an option, with a moderate risk to IQ level.”


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