Almost every anti-drug campaign will claim that smoking weed makes you stupid. Parents who are concerned that their teens may be smoking pot will berate them with anecdotes on how weed kills brain cells.
This notion is often based on the portrayal of the pot smoking stereotype as a slow thinker, a dirty unkempt hippie. Weed smokers are depicted on silver screens as being lazy and not the sharpest of tools in the shed. Is there any truth in these claims?
Research into the effects of marijuana on the brain seems to have drawn a blank. On the one hand, there are studies which indicate that smoking marijuana may indeed result in a marked drop in IQ.
On the other end of the spectrum, some researchers are claiming marijuana has the exact opposite effect and that rather than killing off brain cells, marijuana actually promotes neurogenisis and improves cognitive function.
Let us begin by examining the hypothesis that smoking weed DOES make you stupid. From there we will examine the counter argument before allowing you to draw your own conclusions.
Yes, smoking pot does make you stupid.
This notion came out of New Zealand where a 20 year study was conducted on 1 000 people between the ages of 13 and 38. The study revealed that chronic users who began smoking weed before the age of 18 experienced a drop of 8 points in their IQ by the time they reached 38.
The original research has since received some harsh criticism based on several factors. Firstly, only 3.8% of the subjects were found to have experienced reduced IQ levels. (38 subjects out of 1 000) All of these were chronic users who consumed far more marijuana than the average user. These respondents had also been smoking weed for an extended period of over 20 years.
Secondly, there is much debate as to whether IQ testing can be considered as a valid measurement of brain function and intelligence. Standard IQ tests are usually socio-culturally biased and are not generally accepted in scientific fields.
Thirdly, the research failed to take into account other factors which could have played a role. Among these are hereditary problems, alcohol consumption, diet and other variables; all of which could have impacted on the results.
No, smoking weed does NOT make you stupid!
More recent research tends to show that smoking weed has little long term effect on cognitive ability and function. While some users do suffer from short term memory loss, this tends to wear off along with the effects of inebriation.
Early research indicates that certain cannabinoids found in marijuana help protect the brain from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Cannabidiol (or CBD for short) has also proven to be particularly effective in the treatment of epilepsy. CBD appears to regulate brain activity, making it more difficult for seizures to occur.
A study conducted on American twins was recently undertaken. The one twin smokes pot, the other doesn’t. This particular study showed no evidence that smoking weed impacts on intelligence. Similarly, a study examined the life-trajectories of over 2200 British youngsters. Although the methodology of the research differed vastly from the US based study, the same conclusion was drawn; smoking weed has no effect on intelligence.
With society shifting away from the viewpoint that marijuana is a deadly narcotic, to a situation of acceptance that cannabis can truly be of benefit to medical science, various debates and controversies, including the question of its effect on intelligence remain. Are these the result of flawed research, or should we genuinely be concerned?