Federal Agency: Weed Use Not Causing Drop in Teen IQ

The problem is more likely Mom and Dad.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a U.S.-government research agency created to “lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.” When the NIDA makes a decree, especially a decree that indicates a substance such as, say, marijuana may in fact be mostly innocuous, contrary to what previous so-called experts have presumed, then people should listen.

In August, the NIDA federal think tank released a disclaimer to a flurry of studies that presumed adolescent consumption of marijuana warps a kid’s brain in a negative way. In particular, the NIDA's doubting perspective was responding to National Institute of Mental Health research suggesting that teens who smoke pot lose IQ points that nonsmoking kids retain.

From the NIDA reexamination:

The researchers propose that marijuana users fall behind in IQ because they have experienced adverse familial influences that decrease their motivation to learn and predispose them to engage in delinquency and deviant behaviors, including substance use. These negative attitudes and behaviors impede the normal accumulation of vocabulary and information.

To be clear, the government researchers classify adolescent use of marijuana as a “deviant” behavior, along with truancy and criminal activity. To be even more clear: Of the suite of deviant behaviors troubled adolescents adopt, marijuana use is not one that causes kids to fall behind in “the normal accumulation of vocabulary and information.”

So if you know a teen who is smoking weed, it's possible the kid has other issues, issues that increase the risk of negative life outcomes. And if that kid has a twin, the twin is at equal risk of being taken down by shared environmental and genetic conditions particular to their family—even if the twin does not smoke weed!

Skeptical? Again, take it from the trusted NIDA:

Twins who were discordant for marijuana use (i.e., one used and the other didn’t) had parallel IQ trajectories. This finding suggests that the twins’ IQ was affected by factors that twins share in their genes or family background, rather than factors in which they differed (e.g., drug use).

Again, a teen engaging in the deviant behavior of cannabis consumption may indicate the presence of other deviant factors and clear dangers ahead. Researchers should talk to these marijuana-using kids and ask what's going on. Chances are, the kids are smart enough to know, and to communicate, what's up.