The “weed turns you into blithering idiot” stereotype has been with us for generations. We’ve seen the moronic marijuana toker in countless movies and sitcoms. We’ve heard the jokes on late-night talk shows and even legitimate news programs. So, does marijuana make you stupid?
There must be some truth to it, right? Well, the reality is that reputable studies suggest little likelihood of a connections between cannabis consumption and decreased IQ.
In fact, a pair of studies published in 2016 reveal that marijuana has little long-term effect on learning and memory. Further, the studies suggest that any cannabis-related cognitive damage that does occur is reversible.
Even the most ardent defender of cannabis use will cop to the fact that getting high plays tricks on your brain. I mean, that’s what “getting high” means, right? We’ve all misplaced our car keys or struggled to find the correct word.
According to Dr. Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the University of Albany, “marijuana seems to affect a particular kind of intelligence, like short term retention of vocabulary words and other information that you might learn in school.”
So, yes, your brain is a bit jumbled if you consume a heavy dose of THC. But what about the long-term impact?
Despite the research, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, believes the jury is still out. She points to studies that compare brain scans of teenagers who use marijuana to those who don’t. The scans show thinner, less dense connections between lobes among the cannabis users.
“You could expect that that will decrease your capacity to memorize things and to learn them which is necessary to you to actually further develop your cognitive abilities,” she said.
According to Live Science:
Brain-scan studies in humans suggest that pot may be linked to anatomical brain changes, such as shrinking of the amygdala, a brain region that processes emotion, reward and fear. In some people with genetic vulnerability, such brain changes might be enough to tip someone into schizophrenia, which is more common in people who have used marijuana. However, the genes in question may lead people to smoke more pot and to be more prone to schizophrenia, rather than directly causing the link between pot and psychosis.
Even Volkow concedes there’s little proof that marijuana causes poor brain connections.
NIDA is supporting a study that will map the effects of marijuana on brain development. The Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) will follow 10,000 9- to 10- year-olds through early adulthood, using neuroimaging to map changes in the brain.
The bottom line: There’s not much evidence of permanent harm to the brain. But you probably forget where you left your car keys.