Straight Talk Advice

Sep 19, 2012

Smoking pot too young results in significant IQ drop

Dear Straight Talk: I'm in 8th grade and my best friends are starting to smoke weed. One is getting it from his parent's supply and they are doctors. I don't want to smoke it but they say everyone does it and our parents did, too, and there is nothing harmful about it. What do you make of their claims? — "James," Lodi, Calif.

Colin 19, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Marijuana isn't as hardcore as meth or cocaine, but teen marijuana smokers are averaging an 8-point drop in IQ — permanently. There is also the trade, which is dominated by Mexican drug cartels using brutality right out of the Middle Ages. Do you really want to support that? Finances? It's expensive. Illegal? Yes. I choose not to smoke marijuana. I am perfectly happy as I am.

Brandon 20, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Pot is, sadly, the new cool thing in middle school. Yes, your parents may have experimented with pot (I know mine did). They grew up in the “freedom-peace-love” era and didn't understand the risks of starting young. I am completely against youth smoking. If you want to get into it as an adult, that's your call. But smoking young WILL affect you negatively. Regarding friends, they come and go. The last time I saw my eighth-grade friends was three years ago. Worry about advancing yourself, your education and your future. I guarantee you can find friends who don't smoke weed.

Katelyn 17, Azusa, Calif. Ask me a question

Recent research shows that while smoking pot may make  you feel smarter in the present, it severely impacts your future learning abilities. Listen to your instincts!

Christina 20, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

I have seen people changed negatively by it — even when they're not high. From what I've observed, pot has a worse effect on youth than adults.

Kira 20, Moraga, Calif. Ask me a question

Eighth grade is WAY too young! The earliest my friends started was sophomore year. I didn't try it till senior year and nobody pressured me. Personally, I don't like it, plus I get drug tested to play a college sport.

Taylor 15, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

All my friends have done it. I do think eighth grade is too young, but I knew people who did it in seventh. I have seen some people lose themselves and go south. I have also seen straight-A students who get away with smoking every now and then.

Gregg 21, Los Angeles Ask me a question

I was the kid getting my friends involved. I started smoking right after eighth grade. By junior year, my entire paycheck went to my drug dealer. My grades dropped, I lost friends, teachers eyeballed me. Finally, my parents forced me into a weekly rehab program and drug tested me randomly. (I was over 18; it can be done.) Since I stopped over two years ago, I'm back!  I'm more alive, active, outgoing, and have better memory. The contrast gives me no desire to smoke again. It's actually a pretty boring activity.

Dear James: “Keep your brain clean till at least 19.” I wrote this catch-phrase based on observation. It is now backed by science. A recent long-term study shows that smoking pot before age 18 results in what may be a permanent IQ drop of eight points. This is not small. This is a person of average intelligence dropping from 50th percentile in intelligence to 29th. For those in the study who waited until after 18 to start smoking, their IQ remained steady. (A note on Boomer parents: For those who lit up, the vast majority started after age 19 — AND the pot was significantly weaker.) The adolescent brain undergoes huge changes and is vulnerable. Best practice: give it a pass. For non-users, IQ actually increases.  —Lauren

Editor's Note: The Dunedin Study followed over 1000 New Zealand youths born in 1972, testing them starting at age 13 before any had started smoking pot, and concluding the study when they were 38. The study ruled out changes in IQ that might be due to educational differences, alcohol and other drugs. Those who smoked four times a week starting as teens showed an average 8-point decline in IQ that didn't rebound after they quit as adults.

This has huge ramifications for our schools, both public and private. With fewer adolescents believing that pot use is harmful, use has been driven younger and younger, into our middle schools. Daily use among teens is at a 30-year peak. A 2011 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland, found that about 6 percent of 12th graders smoked pot 20 or more times in the 30 days before the survey. Almost half had tried pot at least once.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's 2012 annual back-to-school survey, teens who say their parents are more laid back about drug use are more likely to drink or use drugs. And teens who are left alone overnight (almost 30 percent of those surveyed) are almost twice as likely to drink or use pot, and three times more likely to use tobacco, than kids with parents home. About 60 percent of those surveyed described their schools (both public and private) as "drug-infected."

Parents need to be more engaged, aware, and set more boundaries — and so do all our schools. The core work is to reduce the stress our infants and young children experience, as it is this trauma that leads to addictive behaviors during adolescence in the first place. —Lauren

Straight Talk TnT is a 501c3 nonprofit ("social-profit") organization. Your donation ensures the success of our work. 

  1. By Potty, age , from Tennessee on 12/17/2012

    Honestly, I strongly disagree with all the other commenters. I started smoking junior year and nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, has been affected besides GAINING friends. I’m not condoning smoking weed for everyone, but it’s nothing to shun. You will see it, you will see others with it and eventually it will end up near you or in your possession. As I said, I started smoking junior year and I have kept a 4.0 in all AP classes, and this past week (Senior now), I got accepted to Georgetown University. There is really no reason to say it adversely affects your brain.. Most of my friends who smoke have WELL above average GPAs and ACTs, etc. If you smoke it responsibly and keep your priorities in check, you will have no problem, nor should you. It relaxes you, keeps you out of trouble (unfortunately not legal trouble since it’s still illegal), and keeps you from doing something worse, such as drinking (affects you MUCH more). Overall, if you’re a responsible young adult, toke on.

    Reply to this comment

  2. By Britney, age , from Clearlake,California on 05/22/2013

    Im in middle school and all my friends smoke pot.when they do they are very different when they don’t.I am totally against pot and help my friend to quit it.She is alot happier know and im happy for her.

    Reply to this comment

Comment Form

Straight Talk Advice readers are known for their frank and constructive posts that lead to insightful conversations that help many people! Please keep these guidelines in mind when posting:

  • Be constructive: Needlessly cruel or obscene comments will probably be removed. Be conscious of this so your point can be heard.
  • Be relevant: Spam or senseless character attacks irrelevant to the discussion will also probably be removed.

Happy posting!

Straight Talk Advice Recommends