Fargo psychologist says pot-IQ study raises concerns for kidsFARGO – A study released this year shows that teenage marijuana use – which has been staying fairly steady in the region – may lower teens’ performance on IQ tests.
By: Charly Haley, INFORUM
FARGO – A study released this year shows that teenage marijuana use – which has been staying fairly steady in the region – may lower teens’ performance on IQ tests.
In August, the results of the long-term study in New Zealand showed a drop in IQ for people who frequently smoke marijuana before age 18.
“I think it’s a very important study,” said Scott Porter, a pediatric neuropsychologist with Sanford Health in Fargo. “As a health care provider, it makes me a little more concerned.”
In the New Zealand longitudinal study, participants were tested for IQ at age 13 and again at age 38. The IQ drop was seen only in those who started smoking pot regularly before age 18. Porter said the IQ drop was an average of eight points.
“This is a very interesting study, but we have to be careful how we interpret it,” he said.
Porter said he finds the study results useful because at his practice in Fargo there are often many other factors that individually affect patients, some whom use marijuana, making it difficult to make the sort of link the research showed.
According to the North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the percentage of students who say they have used marijuana one or more times during the past 30 days has ranged from 14 to 17 percent since 2005. The number of students who’ve used marijuana one or more times during their life has been about 30 percent since 2007.
Using marijuana one or more times a year among high school seniors in Minnesota has been around 31 percent since 2007, according to survey by the state Department of Health. Ninth graders’ pot smoking has been slowly declining in recent years, from 24.5 percent in 1998 to 14.9 percent in 2010.
The co-presidents of Fargo North High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions said they see marijuana use as a small problem at Fargo North.
“It’s not a huge issue, but there are still concerns about it,” senior Haylee Volk said.
Kathy Strand, Fargo schools teacher and SADD adviser, said she finds that students who use the drug are often aware of those consequences but think they are “invincible.”
“You can talk about it until you are blue in the face,” Strand said, “but some (students) still think ‘Oh, the bad things that go along with drug use won’t affect me personally’ type of mentality.”
She also said the peer pressure in high school and the media image of marijuana doesn’t help teenagers.
“Marijuana is portrayed as a cool, chill, drug that is OK. I believe that also makes many students think it is socially acceptable to use it,” Strand said.
Porter said he will consider the connection between under-18 marijuana use and declining IQ when advising patients.
He’s always recommended patients receive treatment for chronic marijuana use, but “the study makes me worry about the long-term effects,” he said.
Porter believes the results of the New Zealand study will lead to similar studies and compared it to early research into cigarettes.
“This is enough to get me concerned,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”