How Marijuana Affects School, Work and Social Life
Depression, anxiety, and personality disturbances are all associated with marijuana use. Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana use has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. Because marijuana compromises the ability to learn and remember information, the more a person uses marijuana the more he or she is likely to fall behind in accumulating intellectual, job, or social skills. In one study of cognition, adults were matched on the basis of their performance in the 4th grade level of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. They were then evaluated on a number of cognitive measures including the 12th grade version of the Iowa test. Those who were heavy marijuana smokers scored significantly lower on mathematical skills and verbal expression than nonsmokers.
Research has shown that marijuana’s adverse impact on memory and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. For example, a study of 129 college students found that among heavy users of marijuana (those who smoked the drug at least 27 of the preceding 30 days) critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning were significantly impaired, even after they had not used the drug for at least 24 hours. The heavy marijuana users in the study had more trouble sustaining and shifting their attention and in registering, organizing, and using information than did the study participants who had used marijuana no more than 3 days of the previous 30. As a result, someone who smokes marijuana once daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level all of the time.
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Research has shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies display altered responses to visual stimuli, increased tremulousness, and a high-pitched cry, which may indicate problems with neurological development. During the preschool years, marijuana-exposed children have been observed to perform tasks involving sustained attention and memory more poorly than non-exposed children do. In the school years, these children are more likely to exhibit deficits in problem-solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive.
Students who smoke marijuana get lower grades and are less likely to graduate from high school compared with their nonsmoking peers. One study produced evidence that marijuana’s effects on the brain can cause cumulative deterioration of critical life skills in the long run. Researchers gave students a battery of tests measuring problem-solving and emotional skills in 8th grade and again in 12th grade. The results showed that the students who were already drinking alcohol plus smoking marijuana in 8th grade started off slightly behind their peers, but that the distance separating these two groups grew significantly by their senior year in high school. The analysis linked marijuana use, independently of alcohol use, to reduced capacity for self-reinforcement, a group of psychological skills that enable individuals to maintain confidence and persevere in the pursuit of goals.
Workers who smoke marijuana are more likely than their coworkers to have problems on the job. Several studies have associated workers who smoke marijuana with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover. A study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and a 75 percent increase in absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.
Marijuana users themselves report poor outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement. A recent study compared current and former long-term users of marijuana with a control group who reported smoking cannabis at least once in their lives, but not more than 50 times. Despite similar education and incomes in their families of origin, significant differences were found on educational attainment and income between heavy users and the control group; fewer of the cannabis users completed college and more had household incomes of less than $30,000. When asked how marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health, the overwhelming majority of heavy cannabis users reported the drug’s deleterious effect on all of these measures.
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