Marijuana Answer VIII: How Does Marijuana Use Affect School, Work, and Social Life?

marijuana-studentsResearch has shown that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off.15 Consequently, someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Not surprisingly, evidence suggests that, compared with their nonsmoking peers, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school.16 A meta-analysis of 48 relevant studies – one of the most thorough performed to date – found cannabis use to be associated consistently with reduced educational attainment (e.g., grades and chances of graduating).17 However, a causal relationship is not yet proven between cannabis use by young people and psychosocial harm.

That said, marijuana users themselves report poor outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures. One study compared current and former long-term heavy 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 income backgrounds, significant differences were found in educational attainment: fewer of the heavy users of cannabis completed college, and more had yearly 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 majority of heavy cannabis users reported the drug’s negative effects on all of these measures. In addition, several studies have linked workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover. For example, 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.

For more information on marijuana, check out our Marijuana Tip Card, Marijuana Brochure or NIDA’s Research Report.

15Schweinsburg, A.D.; Brown, S.A.; and Tapert, S.F. The influence of marijuana use on neurocognitive functioning in adolescents. Curr Drug Abuse Rev 1(1): 99-111, 2008.
16Fergusson, D.M.; and Boden, J.M. Cannabis use and later life outcomes. Addiction 103(6): 969-976; discussion 977-968, 2008.
17Macleod, J.; Oakes, R.; Copello, A.; Crome, I.; Egger, M.; Hickman, M.; Oppenkowski, T.; Stokes-Lampard, H.; and Davey Smith, G. Psychological and social sequelae of cannabis and other illicit drug use by young people: A systematic review of longitudinal, general population studies. Lancet 363(9421): 1579-1588, 2004.