Pot, dope, cannabis, Mary Jane or weed. Regardless of what you prefer to call it, a new study is suggesting that teenagers who smoke marijuana with regularity risk a long-term drop in their intelligence levels or IQs.
The research team who headed up the study did not find the same IQ drop for people who started smoking pot regularly after the age of eighteen. Even though most experts are agreeing that the new findings are not definitive, they do seem to be on track with earlier studies which have suggested that marijuana is harmful to teenage brains.
The study took place in New Zealand and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those participating were given IQ tests at the age of thirteen, which was before they started regularly smoking pot and then again at age thirty-eight. The drop in intelligence levels between those two ages was only prevalent in those who began regularly smoking marijuana before they turned eighteen. The message the results of this study is sending out is that people should avoid smoking marijuana until they become adults, if possible.
It should come as no surprise that marijuana is the most popular illegal drug on the planet. It is estimated that between 119 million and 224 million people between the ages of fifteen and sixty-four smoke pot. In the U.S., a federal government report released earlier this summer stated that nearly a quarter of all high school aged teens said that they have recently smoked pot, making it more popular than tobacco.
Experts agree that most kids do not think that smoking pot is a big deal. Experts are also in agreement about the new findings being accurate because earlier, credible studies done on the topic have not measured mental performance before pot use began. Regardless of what people believe, the study does bring to light the fact that marijuana smoking could be harmful to young people.
The New Zealand study complied data from over 1,000 people all living in one town. In addition to taking intelligence tests, the subjects studied also sat through interviews at five different times between the ages of eighteen and thirty-eight to answer questions about their pot use. A little over four dozen of the subjects said that by the time they had turned eighteen, they had become dependent on the drug and started using it regularly even if it was causing them problems socially, legally or health-wise. Over ninety of the participants said that their addictions began later in life. It was found that teenagers who smoked marijuana at least four times a week and used it until they turned thirty-eight, had an average of an 8-point drop in their IQs.
There has always been widespread speculation that pot use in adolescence may have neurotoxic effects on the brain because the human brain undergoes critical development during the teen years. Some critics of the study say that pot smoking does not negatively affect the brain in a physical manner. These naysayers tend to agree that heavy pot smokers in high school are less inclined to attend classes or partake in other activities that challenge the brain. They believe that ‘getting off track’ in this manner can limit the future opportunities of regular pot smokers which is what may reduce their intelligence levels.