Is Your Joint Dumbing You Down? The Sobering Link Between Teen Pot Smoking and Adult IQ

Did you know that regularly smoking marijuana as a teenager can have a lasting impact on your intelligence? It’s true! Studies now show that adolescents who smoke marijuana regularly may see a decrease in their IQ as adults. This is because the brain continues to grow until around age 18. So, smoking pot during this critical time can actually prevent your developing brain from reaching its full potential.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into this research, explore the impact marijuana has on your brain, and discuss why starting to smoke later in life does not have the same consequences.

The Research: Smoking Pot and Lowered IQ

As cannabis use becomes increasingly more accepted and legalized around the world, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks – particularly for young people. A study conducted by Terrie Moffitt of King College London’s Institute of Psychiatry and Duke focused on the connection between smoking pot during adolescence and cognitive problems later in life.

Analyzing data from over 1,000 New Zealand residents followed from birth to around age 38, researchers found a correlation between smoking marijuana regularly before the age of 18 and a decline in IQ. The study showed that persistent cannabis users who began in their teenage years experienced an average IQ drop of 8 points between age 13 and 38 – a significant decrease.

But here’s the good news: those who took up marijuana use in adulthood did not experience the same cognitive decline. This suggests that it’s the developing adolescent brain that is most vulnerable to marijuana’s negative impact.

The Adolescent Brain and Marijuana

The human brain is not fully developed until about age 25, with the prefrontal cortex being the last area to mature. This part of the brain is responsible for executive functions, including decision-making and impulse control. In teenagers, this area is still developing, making them more susceptible to making risky decisions and engaging in impulsive behavior.

When you smoke marijuana, its active ingredient – THC – affects neurons in the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for learning, memory, and other cognitive functions. In adolescents, the endocannabinoid system is particularly vulnerable to disruption, as it is still undergoing significant changes.

Disrupting the endocannabinoid system during its development may be the key to understanding why persistent cannabis use can have lasting consequences on a teenager’s cognitive abilities. As a result, a young person who regularly smokes marijuana may find their brain’s full potential hindered.

Lifelong Consequences of Lowered IQ

While an IQ drop of 8 points might not seem significant, it can have far-reaching effects on a person’s life. Moffitt explains that IQ is a strong determinant of several key aspects of life, including:

  • Access to a college education
  • Lifelong total income
  • Access to a good job
  • Job performance
  • Tendency to develop heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or even early death

So, if smoking marijuana as a teenager is stunting the development of one’s brain and lowering their IQ, it is effectively limiting their potential and overall wellbeing later in life.

No Full Recovery: The Impact of Quitting or Reducing Cannabis Use

You might think that quitting or cutting back on cannabis use would reverse these cognitive effects, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. According to Moffitt’s research, quitting or reducing marijuana consumption did not appear to fully restore intellectual functioning among individuals who started smoking in their teenage years.

This means that the negative impact of smoking marijuana on a developing brain may be permanent, which highlights the importance of discouraging marijuana use among adolescents.

Final Thoughts: The Importance of Protecting the Developing Brain

In summary, the research underscores the crucial need to safeguard the still-developing adolescent brain from the harmful impact of marijuana use. While the occasional experiment with cannabis might not cause long-term harm, persistent use during the teenage years can lead to a decrease in IQ and a host of negative life consequences.

As attitudes toward cannabis continue to shift, it’s essential to educate young people and their parents about the potential risks of marijuana use during this critical period of development. After all, a decision made in adolescence can have lasting effects on one’s intelligence and future success.