Whether you are a worried parent, an ambitious teenager, or just a curious psychonaut, you’ve probably wondered if smoking weed as a kid makes you dumb.
With services like WoahStork making cannabis more easily accessible, it’s important to ensure that the age-old notion that cannabis is essentially “harm free” is correct. How do we know that the people who say “weed makes you dumb” aren’t right?
Most of the times, research articles that speak to the actual truth are littered with technical jargon, making it hard to get to the point. Fortunately, the team at WoahStork has a strong scientific background and has analyzed recent studies, conducted by scientists at UCLA and the University of Minnesota, and prepared the facts.
Smoking Weed As A Kid – When Is The Right Time To Start Using Marijuana?
There are endless debates surrounding whether or not it’s safe for adolescents to use cannabis. I know that for my younger brother, I insisted he wait until he was 18 before he had his first toke. This wasn’t based on any hard science, just an intuition that it would be safer to wait. A lot of that is bundled with a worry surrounding the possible descent into the lifestyle that often, unfortunately, accompanies cannabis use. I didn’t want my brother to rely on the pleasures of marijuana and become complacent before truly developing his work ethic.
However, given the incredible amount of stress we place on our future leaders of the world, perhaps it’s healthy for them to be able to wind down and take a drag here and there. Does that mean it’s okay to give a stressed out 5th grader a joint? I think most people would feel uneasy about that. What about an 8th grader? Where do we draw the line? The concept of smoking weed as a kid is a touchy topic, so gathering hard evidence is critical for the decision making process.
Naturally, I’m in 100% full support of using medical marijuana at any age (even prenatal) for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Organizations like CannaKids are testaments to the incredible effectiveness of using cannabis to cure cancer, epilepsy, and more in young children.
However, if it’s not necessary, should kids still be taking a toke? Decades of research have shown that the human brain is still developing until age 25. Since cannabinoids, the active chemical compounds found in cannabis, act on your endocannabinoid system and your endocannabinoid system plays a strong role in neural development, it is theoretically plausible that using marijuana during this development window could affect neural development….
Notice we used the word affect. That doesn’t necessarily mean it would hurt. In fact, it could be the case that smoking weed as a kid makes you smarter! Let’s turn to the most recent literature on smoking weed as a kid.
Cannabis Use During Adolescence Has No Impact on Fluid Intelligence
Groundbreaking research was released in 2015 showing that heavy cannabis use during adolescence (between the ages of 9 and 17) has absolutely no impact on fluid intelligence. We’ll get into what exactly fluid intelligence means in a moment.
In this study, the scientists recruited over three thousand twins, much like the Weasley brother from the famous Harry Potter franchise.
Twins are a fantastic way to study the effects of substances on the body and mind. Since twins are essentially equivalent from a genetics standpoint, you can see the effects of a substance on one twin (the subject) and have a built-in “control” with the other twin. A “control” is usually someone who is as similar as possible to the subject. This is done to isolate the variable of interest and make sure that any effects seen in the subject are not due to other differences between the subject and the control.
In this case, the variable of interest was cannabis use and the question: does smoking weed as a kid lower your intelligence?
The scientists first enrolled twins in the study when they were between 9-12 years of age. They tested their intelligence and surveyed them on their use of marijuana. They then had the same twins come back once they were between the ages of 17 and 20 when they took additional intelligence tests and provided reports on their marijuana use. The intelligence test had many components, but the focus was on what’s called Crystallized vs. Fluid intelligence.
The portions of the intelligence test that reveal one’s competence for abstract reasoning and problem-solving (what is commonly referred to as “fluid intelligence”) was absolutely unaffected by cannabis use in adolescence. That is, if an individual smokes cannabis at a young age they don’t turn out to be any less intelligence than their twi that didn’t smoke cannabis at the same age. Additionally, the research showed no decline in intelligence after the initiation of cannabis use at any age.
Cannabis Use During Adolescence Has A Slight Impact on Crystallized Intelligence
However, the study did reveal that cannabis use during adolescence is associated with a decrease in vocabulary for general knowledge (what is commonly referred to as “crystallized intelligence”). Since there was no brain imaging done in this study, it can’t be concluded that this association has any neural correlates.
This effect could be, in part, due to the habits of people that partake in cannabis use. For instance, instead of reading the newspaper after lighting up a joint, it may be more common behavior to indulge in more leisurely activities. Thus, it could be the case that cannabis isn’t decreasing your crystallized intelligence, but instead preventing you
How to use cannabis intelligently
Brain Derived Neutrophic Factor (BDNF) is known for helping to support the survival of existing neurons, and encourage the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. The expression of BDNF increases with excercise. Perhaps the above research was a by-product of adolescent cannabis users getting less excercise. By being vigilant about excercise, adolescents could potentially counteract this negative impact on crystallized intelligence.
Regular exercise actually upregulates the hippocampus — your brain’s memory encoding center. By staying active, adolescent users stand a chance to have even better memory than their non-user peers!
Pick the right strain
With tools like WoahStork’s Strain Genie, you can find the right strain for any occasion! Even reading. Don’t let the stoner stereotype trap you; if you find the right strain, cannabis can help you with all aspects of your life.
These days, growers tend to grow cannabis for maximum THC content and yield. However, there are products out there with a more rounded cannabinoid profile that could, theoretically, negate the negatives of THC. Choosing strains high in CBD can actually be restorative for brain health.
I’m of the opinion that smoking weed as a kid wouldn’t necessarily prevent you from becoming as smart you can be. However, I am mindful of the habits that cannabis often times leads to. Nonetheless, when we traditionally consider someone to be smart, we don’t think too much about the “book smart” folks. Thus, while cannabis might make it harder for you to stay ultra-informed and enhance your vocabulary, it doesn’t prevent you from being this:
So, rejoice! True intelligence and smoking weed as a kid are basically unrelated. While we still are of the opinion that cannabis use should be reserved for adults and children in need of medical marijuana, it’s great news to hear that this beloved plant won’t affect your fluid intelligence. Even in regards to the reported impacts on crystallized intelligence, this is probably a result of lifestyle choices that can be easily combated by way of exercise and strain choice.
Regardless, something still feels a bit wrong about smoking weed as a kid. Even though the science supports its use, we can’t be sure of other non-intelligence related effects adolescent use could cause. I’ll admit that the image of a 5th grader holding a blunt rubs me the wrong way. However, that could just be the societal influence I grew up. If there is nothing wrong with it, what’s the harm? It’s better than kids slurping down High Fructose Corn Syrup by the liter, in my opinion. When the time comes for me to raise children of my own, I will probably discourage their use until after neural development (18-25 range); brain development is the world’s most careful and divine activity and I don’t want to disrupt any part of that process.
In the meantime, let’s let us adults celebrate! Place an online order for pickup or delivery with WoahStork today!
Note: You do need to be of legal age in your respective state to use WoahStork’s online ordering service.