Duke University Uses Identical Twins to Prove Weed Doesn’t Make Kids Dumb
Science fires back at those who wrongly assume stoners have low IQ.
Published on April 18, 2016

Have a friend or family member who thinks marijuana kills brain cells or decreases IQ? Now you can add some fuel to your counter-argument, thanks to a recent medical study published by Duke University. 

How They Did It

Clinicians followed several sets of identical twins over the course of 10 years - one using cannabis, and the other abstaining - in order to analyze whether or not cannabis use in adolescence inhibits neurocognitive function.

As you probably guessed, it doesn’t!

Duke published results from the study in January, closely following and reinforcing similar study results coming out of London. All twins in the study were absolutely fine, and saw limited negative side effects from smoking cannabis. In fact, the study reports that both those on the highest and lowest ends of the IQ spectrum, were just about equally likely to develop a weed habit.

This shows that there’s a particular solidarity in cannabis. Less intelligent kids enjoy it because getting high makes their underdeveloped brains feel stimulated, while smarter adolescents tend to get bored easily and seek out new, stimulating activities. Statisticians frequently face difficulty in attempting to identify and pigeonhole cannabis users into one demographic. It’s a culture that truly spans all walks of life.

Breaking The Stigma

Society still holds true many other assumptions about cannabis use and its effects on the developing brains of teens. No parent wants their child to be trying drugs, and so the issue of teen cannabis use is often met with responses of anger and fear rather than reason and education.

It’s still generally accepted that children with predispositions for schizophrenia and other psychological issues will automatically up their risk for such a condition if they smoke cannabis. There are also indications that the memory-making portion of the brain can be changed by teen cannabis use, linked to poor performance on tests and other memory tasks later in life.

Science supports some of these assumptions, though basic logic will find many to be weak correlations at best, rather than evidence of direct causation. Many patients who have benefitted from medical cannabis treatment started as teens and are living normal, successful lives free of psychosis — many as attorneys and business people.

Soon, the conversation around cannabis and adolescents may very well change. It would be a game-changer for society if we had more research and viable education regarding beneficial and harmful doses for teens, rather than telling them to “just say no.”

Safer Choice for Teens

When viewing the results of studies on adolescent and long-term alcohol use, cannabis, by contrast, is an extremely safe recreational substance.

Drinking alcohol as a teen has been proven to lead to intellectual and behavioral impairment that isn’t temporary, but lasts well into adulthood. It’s also been shown that individuals who drink during adolescence experience stunted growth of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning.  

Recommending cannabis to adolescent children is obviously not recommended; medical and recreational cannabis can only be purchased by those aged 18 or even 21. However, this knowledge should bring some comfort to individuals who smoked as teens—and mostly, their parents.

So there you have it; your IQ has not been negatively affected by your cannabis use. You’re practically a genius. Give yourself a pat on the back for making the safer choice in high school.

Roni Stetter
Roni is a long-time cannabis advocate who has been involved in the community since her days with California's 2010 legalization campaign. A former high school athlete who successfully treated her sports injuries with medical marijuana, she now promotes the health movement on her own blog. When not writing or researching on the web, you can find her at a drum and bass show, hanging out with her dog and cat, or otherwise living the simple San Diego beach life. See what else Roni is up to on her website
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