Let’s examine this carefully. Suppose you can engage in an activity that:
- Costs you lots of money, that you likely could spend in much more productive ways (or save);
- Damages your brain;
- Is the easiest way to get kicked out of college; and
- Can ruin your career.
Is “pot” harmless? Not by a longshot, especially for those under the age of 25, according to recent scientific research. Marijuana is a drug, and all drugs have risks and side effects.
- THC, the active chemical in marijuana, increases the activity of a pathway that promotes protein synthesis in the brain. This transient increase of protein synthesis correlates with long-term memory deficits. Furthermore, and while additional research is needed to confirm this result, in a decades-long study of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, researchers found that adolescents who used marijuana at least four days per week lost an average of eight IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38.
- Teens who were heavy marijuana users had abnormal changes in their brains related to memory and performed poorly on memory tasks. The brain abnormalities and memory problems were observed in the subjects' early twenties, two years after they stopped smoking marijuana, possibly indicating long-term effects. Memory-related structures in their brains appeared to shrink. The younger drug abuse starts, the more abnormal the brain appeared. The marijuana-related brain abnormalities look similar to schizophrenia-related brain abnormalities.
- The size and shape of two brain regions involved in emotion and motivation may differ in young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week. The findings suggest that recreational marijuana use may lead to previously unidentified brain changes. This study suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy.
- Marijuana use may result in cardiovascular-related complications -- even death -- among young and middle-aged adults.
The prevalence of non-alcohol drugs detected in fatally injured drivers in the US steadily rose from 1999 to 2010 and especially for drivers who tested positive for marijuana. Researchers found that of 23,591 drivers who were killed within one hour of a crash, 39.7 percent tested positive for alcohol and 24.8 percent for other drugs. The prevalence of non-alcohol drugs rose from 16.6 percent in 1999 to 28.3 percent in 2010; for marijuana, rates rose from 4.2 percent to 12.2 percent.
In a recent study, it was found that among marijuana-using college students, 44 percent of males and 9 percent of females drove after using the drug, and 51 percent of males and 35 percent of females rode as a passenger with a marijuana-using driver. The authors of the study speculated that the large percentage of students who drove while impaired reflects the widespread myth that driving after marijuana use is safe.
Using illegal drugs in college, including marijuana, is the easiest way to shorten your college career. In addition, research demonstrates permanent, negative impacts on your brain.
Make a choice. Make a wise choice.
Dr. Rhoades also serves as a consultant to the Garrett Planning Network, a nationwide network of independent, Fee-Only financial planners making competent, objective financial advice accessible to all people. He is the author of several books, dozens of articles, and he is a frequent speaker at financial planning and investments conferences. He is the recipient of many awards for his advocacy on behalf of the fiduciary standard. Dr. Rhoades is also a member of The Florida Bar, and he practices estate planning and transfer taxation for select current clients.
Dr. Rhoades and his wife, Cathy, reside in Bowling Green, Kentucky.