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Your Brain On Marijuana Is Just Fine


Marijuana brain stressIf you smoke marijuana, you will permanently lose 8 IQ points as chronic THC exposure hastens the age-related loss of hippocampal neurons.  The resulting impairments in neural connectivity will degrade memory, learning, and impulse control, eventually leading to an increasing likelihood of becoming addicted to heroin.

The federal government says so, right here on the “What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?” page at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Scares about marijuana’s long-term effects are as old as prohibition itself.  The problem for the scaremongers is that there are plenty of older pot smokers actively debunking all the scares.  Whoopi Goldberg’s in her 50s and chatting it up on The View.  Cheech Marin’s in his 60s tearing through a game of Celebrity Jeopardy!  Tommy Chong’s in his 70s Dancing with the Stars.  Willie Nelson’s in his 80s and still On the Road Again.  While they’re not rocket scientists, I don’t think anyone would call any of them stupid.  Certainly nobody would have called the late Dr. Carl Sagan stupid – he was a rocket scientist and a frequent pot smoker!

The 8 IQ points nonsense derives from a study that came out of Duke University in summer 2012.  Prohibitionists like Kevin Sabet, facing the prospect of two legal marijuana states, pounced on it and have beaten that talking point into the ground ever since.

The problems with the study were numerous.  It only found the decline among the heaviest consumers of marijuana, which were 38 people out of 1,073 in the study.  It found slight increases in IQ for moderate consumers.  A follow-up study found other socioeconomic factors explained the IQ drop just as reasonably as the marijuana use.  It was hardly the slam-dunk that the drug warriors wanted it to be.

Last fall, another study came out from University of London.  It tracked 2,612 kids born in 1991 & 1992 and checked IQ scores at age 8 and age 15.  The scientists found absolutely “no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15.”  Even the heaviest pot smokers didn’t lose IQ points.

They did find, however, that alcohol consumption was predictive of losing IQ points.  Ain’t it funny how you don’t see any TV ads about that?  Why doesn’t Kevin Sabet ever bring up that fact?

Likewise, there are many studies prohibitionists like to seize on to justify their stereotyped perception of marijuana consumers as dullards.  Most of them are studies that look at results in rats and extrapolate that to humans.  Others take a look at brain scans of marijuana consumers and interpret the results.  But when scientists examine actual humans who consume marijuana, they find little to no differences in cognitive function.

One of the first to uncover this truth is Dr. Carl Hart, the Columbia neuroscientist and author of “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society”.  In 2001, he published research showing that regular marijuana consumers showed no mental decline while high.  Regular consumption, he found, led to a tolerance to marijuana’s impairing effects – the infrequent toker who gets blazed might have more trouble solving the crossword puzzle, for example, but not the regular toker.

By 2011, other researchers were following up in this hypothesis.  One study followed almost 2,000 Australian adults for eight years.  They found little to no decline in learning and memory and what decline they found reversed itself after a short period of abstinence.

As for that gateway to heroin, it looks like National Institute on Drug Abuse hasn’t read the 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, which found that marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.”  You’d think these Institutes would communicate better.

But the simplest proof you need is to just talk to an older pot smoker.  You’ll find they are not any smarter or stupider than any other person you meet, but their stories are better and they’re likely to share a bowl with you as you listen.

Source: MarijuanaPolitics.Com – syndicated with special permission


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. We absolutely agree with you, Sinclair! That’s why we came out publicly way back in 2001! We hoped it would propel others to step up and openly admit to smoking so that we could get rid of the damn stigma! We are inviting those who are willing to send us their name and photo as well as send us your Drug War Stories and we will post them on our website! We feel very lucky to live in Oregon where weed is FINALLY LEGAL! Sending you all the very best there in Michigan!

  2. There’s no denying marijuana has a detrimental effect on your lungs. One joint is equal to 20 Marlboro cigarettes. It’s a health decision you’ve got to make for yourself. But pot has had no effect on my memory, nor my brain cells. I smoke daily sometimes a couple times per day, and have been doing so for the past 35 years. I have a Masters degree in Piano, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering both from Northwestern University. I run 1.5-3 miles a day in the summertime in extreme heat. I can remember people, places and events dating back to the 2nd grade vividly. Can remember several visual images dating back to age five. I’ve fathered six beautiful children…all college graduates and successful professionals. My eldest son is also a lover of the magic weed (which I did not promote nor encourage), has just completed his Masters program in Psychology and is an HR administrator for a MLB team.

    If it wasn’t for marijuana I’d probably be strung out on some form of antidepressant like Prozac or even Valium. In addition, marijuana enables me to maintain an erection and make love to my wife for hours without reaching orgasm. Marijuana is life-enhancing medicine for me. It is not a gateway drug. I have no interest or curiosity to try any other narcotic, and I do not drink alcohol except for an occasional freezing cold Miller Genuine Draft–in bottles only LOL–on a blistering hot day suntanning at the beach.

  3. Albert Junior on

    In the green parrot seed blog you can find a very interesting review of medical seeds!

  4. Mi-Cree-Ni Quash-Mah on

    OKAY I LIke that one it goes with what I have been saying all along, smoking cannabis does make people stupid especially those that don’t smoke it. now those that eat cannabis are different all together.
    I smoke cannabis everyday all day long. and sometime twice because I smoke the roaches too. and that makes the voices I hear in other peoples heads more quiet. LOL
    OF COURSE IT GETS YOU STONED if it didn’t there would be no question no law no reason …
    SO ya smoking pot will reduce your sensitivity to various stimuli
    that can be good and it can be difficult
    like for me recently about 3 months ago I broke a k-9 tooth on the left side of my mouth kinda half an half at the gum line.
    because I smoke all the time I did not notice any discomfort not the inflammation not even the decayed tooth.
    :::::>started to have this constant cough like a smokers cough>>>> only this produced copious amounts of clear salty (spit)… not unlike the histamine reaction of smoking cannabis ……..went to have the root pulled out because it was sharp edged….. Dentist found the infection and almost referred the extraction to the hospital.
    age old comparison of Viral and bacterial
    I could have died from the tooth infection ………
    so I say IF you smoke really good pot YOU REALLY NEED HELP…..all the time and you definitely should not drive or walk especially if you don’t have pain or discomfort to keep you alert!
    I believe that we should have an option to exchange our driving privilege for a permanent license to grow pot. hey all my friends and family drive they insist on it. the only people that get scared when I drive are not in the vehicle with me.
    went from quilcene Washington to San Rafael Ca in less than 9 hours on HWY 101 average speed 110 mph
    stopped twice by troopers without being given a ticket because THEY KNEW they could not get a signal on me and I knew they had to have the picture for the ticket .
    NOW because I had to follow the dentist follow through on the tooth extraction which requires that no suction be applied to the blood clot freshly formed inside the extraction
    I had to change my patterns of method of use
    to just ingestion by mouth or suppository.
    well Knowing what I know I went to surface applications of cannabis extraction on the gum line .
    and included an add ingestion of Padua Arco tea to fight the inflammation systematically after three days of difficult sleep I gave up that fight and went to the Antibiotic. now 3 days into this fight I feel and know I m winning the battle with in my body again.

  5. If they were truly worried about IQs, they would outlaw television. Get rid of cable TV and watch your IQ go up 20 points in a month.

  6. I, along with a lot of friends, occasionally have to take a break because our “tolerance level” has increased thereby requiring greater intake…$$$!
    Abstaining for a few days seems to “reset” our internal settings because resumption of intake achieves the desired result using a lesser amount.

  7. An interesting topic comes to mind from the AWESOME article here from Russ. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that regular Cannabis use doesn’t really develop a “tolerance” with the user, rather the regular user becomes “familiar” with the effects that Cannabis typically brings on, therefore he/she is able to adapt to the cognitive changes that Cannabis typically brings on.
    Does this ring true with anyone else? Does everyone already know this……? Am I slow on the uptake or what?

  8. It would be great if some of our more successful pot heads would come out and speak up we all know it’s hard sometimes. But just like Dr. Carl Sagon , Cheap and Chong and Mr. Willie Nelson and Miss Golburg there are other famous, or successful people who can and should speak up and make a difference. A real good examples is Mr Silly Rabin a member of this blog he has done quite well for himself and his family. I to am proud of my life and my family the difference is I do not smoke but I would if it was legal in Michigan I have smoked in t h e past a lot but after a scare from the police I quit on the spot. This was 15 years ago. Anyhow I am counting down the days when I can be free and not worried about persecution.

  9. You rock! At least you probably have your health seeing as cannabis has many health benefits, especially when vaporized, ingested or used in oil form.

  10. Jean Anne Lewis on

    I know what you mean. I hope the best for all of us that smoke weed in states that prohibit it. Here’s a toke to all the people that still have to hide to smoke a plant that has helped so many of us. :-)

  11. Jordan Shorette on

    i saw the same thing I believe he even referenced the IQ drop bs, btw im still laughing at the threw up in my mouth comment haha

  12. Let’s see …. Hum I’ve been a regular user for over 45 years …. When I left California I was a dealer and took a pound with me to Wisconsin where I have been gainfully employed at the same job for over 41 years and with the same company over 33 years …. I have a wonderful wife of 45+ years and two kids, one is 45 years old and I smoked before she was born ….

    I own four houses with two being rentals and one my younger daughter lives in …. I have three cars, one an older car and I just wife got a new Acura – put $20k down and financed rest ….

    Only arrest involved weed and in my weekend jail time I learned how to crimes but never applied my knowledge – some smart guys are in the can ….. While I accept the experience I would not wish on anyone except real criminals ….

    And now every time I purchase some weed or try to grow some in the summer I am still paranoid and this is after paying tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of taxes and suporting local charities and helping others ….. I’ve lived with this for over 45 years but the weight gets heavier as we age …..

    Hope and pray someday!

  13. I heard Super Prohibitionist Bill Bennett say the other day when quoting this EXACT study… “We get our data right from Duke University. So you know it’s good research.”. I threw up in my mouth a bit, when i heard him say that. But he threw that out their and it went uncontested.

  14. I heard Super Prohibitionist Bill Bennett say the other day when quoting this EXACT study… “We get our data right from Duke University. So you know it’s good research.”. I threw up in my mouth a bit, when i heard him say that. But he threw that out their and it went uncontested.

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