How Marijuana Affects Learning

As your teens go through high school and prepare for college they are at an increased risk for drug use and drinking. However, high school is the critical point in building the academic foundation for the rest of their lives. Be sure your teens remain drug-free during these critical learning years.
  • Marijuana can hinder a teen’s ability to learn. Heavy marijuana use impairs young people’s ability to concentrate and retain information.1 This can be especially problematic during peak learning years.
  • Marijuana use is linked to poorer grades. A teen with a “D” average is four times more likely to have used marijuana than a teen with an “A” average.2
  • Marijuana and underage drinking are linked to higher dropout rates. Students who drink or use drugs frequently are up to five times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school.3
  • A teenage marijuana user’s odds of dropping out are more than twice that of a non-user.4
Marijuana is addictive. It can cause problems for young users when their bodies and brains are still developing, which decreases their likelihood of success.
  • Research also shows that marijuana use is three times more likely to lead to dependence among adolescents than among adults. Research indicates that the earlier kids start using marijuana, the more likely they are to become dependent on this or other illicit drugs later in life.5
  • Teens who begin marijuana use at an early age when the brain is still developing may be more vulnerable to neuropsychological deficits, especially verbal abilities.6
  • Teens who are regular marijuana users often have short attention spans, decreased energy and ambition, poor judgment, impaired communications skills and diminished effectiveness in social situations — a set of problems called an “amotivational syndrome” by scientists.
Parents need to know the facts about marijuana. Setting rules and enforcing them can make all the difference in teens’ lives.
  • Youths who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs.7
  • Parents are the most powerful influence on their kids when it comes to drugs. Two-thirds of youth ages 13-17 say losing their parents’ respect is one of the main reasons they don’t smoke marijuana or use other drugs.8
  • Parental disapproval plays a strong role in turning back drug use. In 2004, youths who believed that their parents would strongly disapprove of marijuana use had rates over 80 percent lower than those whose parents would not strongly disapprove (5.1 percent use vs. 30 percent use rates).9
  • Kids who learn about the risks of marijuana and other illicit drugs from their parents are far less likely to use drugs.10
Sources: 1.Pope HG et al. Early-onset cannabis use and cognitive deficits: What is the nature of the association? Drug and Alcohol Dependence.,69 (3): 303-310, 2003. 2.The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) Report: Marijuana use among youths. SAMHSA, 2002. Based on data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse 2000. 3.The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). Malignant neglect: Substance abuse and America’s schools. New York: Columbia University, 2001. 4.Bray JW et al. The relationship between marijuana initiation and dropping out of school. Health Economics.,9(1): 9-18, 2000. 5.Youth Marijuana Prevention Initiative:The NCADI Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2002. Gfroerer, JC and Epstein, JF. Marijuana initiates and their impact on future drug abuse treatment need. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.,54(3):229-237, 1999. Anthony, JC and Petronis, KR. Early-onset drug use and risk of later drug problems. Drug and Alcohol Dependence., 40: 9-15, 1995. Grant, BF and Dawson, DA. Age of onset of drug use and its association with DSM-IV drug abuse and dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse,10: 163-173, 1998. 6.Pope, HG et al. Early-onset cannabis use and cognitive deficits: what is the nature of the association? Drug and Alcohol Dependence.,69 (3): 303-310, 2003. 7.Metzler, Rusby and Biglan. Community builders for success: monitoring after-school activities. Oregon Research Institute, 1999. 8.Partnership for a Drug-Free America Attitude Tracking Study, 2002. 9.National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2004. SAMHSA, 2005. 10.Greenblat, J. Self-reported behaviors and their association with marijuana use. SAMHSA. Based on data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1994-1996.