Studying Under the Influence

High Minds and High Grades

Marijuana is something that numerous college students familiarize themselves with. In fact, about 1/17 college students claim that they smoke daily according to a University of Michigan Monitoring the Future study. Combine the increased demand for studying with the

Via: Patients for Medical Cannabis

absence of parents and you get college students studying while under the influence.  We all have a friend, or at least know someone, who always seems to get high before studying.  I never considered that consuming marijuana was ever helpful in terms of academics, but I never really thought about it. Even though a select few of my friends do this, they still manage to get good grades and test well. Does getting high before studying give them an advantage?


A student’s grade point average is often a metric used to determine their success as a student. In one study, the GPAs of students at Georgia College who do and do not smoke weed were observed. While the visuals provided in the study are not exactly easy to anal

Source: StatCrunch study

Source: StatCrunch study 

yze, they all support the conclusion that there was a moderately negative correlation between marijuana consumption and GPA. The figure to the left shows a scatter plot relating the level of marijuana consumption (1-30, 30 being a high level of consumption) to the average GPA of the students. In this specific study, marijuana actually HURT the academic performance of the students. No explanation was provided as to why the GPAs were lower among the students who smoke. Even without a mechanism, the conclusion can still stand. Possible third variables were considered and the low p- values acquired through the statistical analysis dismissed the claim that the results were due to chance.



Drop Out Rates

While the previous study concluded that marijuana hurt academic performance, another study from the Center on Young Adult Health and Development discussed marijuana and its linkage to drop outs. The figure to the right helps illustrate what the study found. Those who were classified as chronic or heavy users of marijuana in the past month were 40.8% more likely to drop out according to the graph. What was interesting was how students who gradually increased the amount of marijuana they consumed also became more likely to drop out over time. The drop out rate was caused by unsatisfactory academic performance, often resulting in the student being kicked out of the school.


So if marijuana leads to a decreased level of academic performance, why is it that my some of the people I know are able to excel in school while being potheads at the same time?


I believe the answer lies in why the people I know choose to smoke. They do not smoke in order to get better grades, because that clearly does not work according to most studies. They choose to smoke before they study because it allows them to become less stressed, and focus specifically on the task at hand, rather than being distracted by various other things. If getting high allows them to concentrate, or even motivates them to study, then it is no surprise that they can still manage good grades and high test scores. In conclusion, marijuana itself does not lead to better academic performance, but if it is consumed in order to make you more comfortable while studying, then it may end up being beneficial.



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4 thoughts on “Studying Under the Influence

  1. Tyler Mitchell Azar

    You were correct that without a mechanism, the conclusion could still be valid. But there’s definitely a lot of confounding variables that could be showing marijuana users GPAs as lower. It’s unknown what the students majors are, how much they studied, in what manner they studied, among other things. This article talks about how marijuana effects the brain, both positively and negatively. It’s very interesting to see what the effects of this plant are, but also eye opening. If you knew that marijuana was shrinking the volume of your brain, would you still imbibe so frequently?

  2. Adelaide Christine Edgett

    I’m well aware of how difficult it can be to do menial tasks, let alone something technical like studying, while under the influence. I do, however, know many very functional stonerswho manage to be great students and hold down jobs. For the life of me, I don’t know how they do it but I think that people just have different reactions to pot. Tolerance might also have to do with it, and possibly also practice. It seems like the more someone smokes, the easier it is to know what to expect and therefore function.

  3. Michael Gerard Shevlin

    While I’m not a supporter of using marijuana to help with studying, there is an argument for its benefits. We have to keep in mind that there are 2 different types of marijuana, sativa and indica. According to this article,
    using sativa strains of marijuana keeps you productive and focused unlike indica strands. While I doubt it is more effective than not using marijuana at all, chronic users would be better off using a sativa strand if they needed to smoke before studying.

  4. Nathan O'brien

    I am really glad that you looked at not only GPA but also drop out rates. I wonder what kinds of confounding variables the studies might have measured if any at all. This may be an anecdote what I am about to say but I cannot help but notice it. I know three people who smoke marijuana before they study. Two of them would mostly classify as geniuses on an IQ scale. I now wonder if they did not smoke whether their grades would get better. I have a feeling that they would get better grades, but maybe I am wrong. Your blog is really making me think about the effects that marijuana can have on people when studying. I wonder if it affects everyone in the same way or not. According to an NBC article, marijuana use on college campuses is on the rise while other drug use is falling. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing that one drug is rising but others are falling. Overall I really enjoyed your post and I think it is a very relatable topic since it regards to college.

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