Dirty Dozen #6: Marijuana Makes You More Likely to Drop Out of School

By Laura Stack

I’ve said it before: smoking, dabbing, or otherwise abusing marijuana makes you dumb. And science can prove it. In addition to the multiple studies showing how long-term marijuana use impairs your judgment, making you stop caring about negative consequences, AND drops your IQ permanently by as many as eight IQ points, other studies show a correlation between daily marijuana use and early high school drop-out rates.

There’s a significant amount of research, including an integrative analysis of three large cohorts of marijuana users in Australia and New Zealand published in The Lancet Psychiatry, suggesting a direct link between cannabis use and early high school drop-out, with daily users up to 60% more likely to drop out than non-users. The referenced study found teen users were also 18 times more likely to become dependent on marijuana, seven times more likely to attempt suicide, and eight times more likely to use illegal drugs later in life. The authors recorded “clear and consistent associations and dose-response relations between the frequency of adolescent cannabis use and all adverse young adult outcomes” (my italics). Students who used marijauna daily dropped out of school more often even after adjustments for other factors. The more marijuana they used, the more likely they were to drop out.

As long ago as 2016, researchers from East Virginia Medical Center and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri compared the impact of medical marijuana laws on educational drop-out rates. They concluded, “medical marijuana law exposure between age 14 to 18 likely has a delayed [negative] effect on use and education that persists over time.” This applied to both high school and college. The effect proved small but noticeable: 0.4% for high school non-completion, and 0.85% for college for daily marijuana users, compared to non-users.  Further, they noted that no previously existing conditions in the states they studied (including my home state of Colorado) affected their findings. Others have also reported close correlation between marijuana use and drop-out rates.

This isn’t rocket science. It should be obvious that any intoxicating substance hurts a developing brain. Every time you get stoned, you’re poisoning yourself. Intoxication always impairs your judgment; if you’re a teenager, you may start to consider the possibility you don’t need any more education. Every time you poison your brain, you damage yourself a little more, impair your judgment a bit more, and entrain specific ideas into your mind.

If you’re a teen, look at the adults you know who used marijuana regularly when they were your age. How are their lives now, especially if they let the drugs decide they should quit school? Is that who you want to be five or ten years on?

Parents, keep an eye on your teens, raise their awareness about how marijuana and school drop-out rates are related—and most important of all, refuse to let them drop out. In most states, adolescents have to continue high school until reaching age 18, unless their parents sign off on them leaving school.

You’ve got the power here, so exercise it.

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