How Teen Marijuana and Alcohol use affect Academic Performance

How Teen Marijuana and Alcohol use affect Academic Performance

How Teen Marijuana and Alcohol use Affects Academic Performance. Alcohol and marijuana are the frequent substances of choice by students. With both drugs having an impact on bodily functioning, an effect on academic performance is almost guaranteed. Parents seek to invest in the future of their children through education but indulgence in substance use threatens the wellbeing of students. Alcohol and marijuana use might affect performance and also affects the probability of graduating and continuing with studies. Understanding how such substances affect academic performance is essential for parents, teachers, students, and even policymakers.


Alcohol and marijuana usage

Despite the prohibition of alcohol and marijuana use among minors, a large percentage of school-going children indulge in the practice. In a 2014 research conducted in the United States, outcomes indicated that 7% of youth between 12 and 13 years consumed an illicit substance in the past year while 5.6% drank alcohol (Fractl, 2021). For college students, the rate is even higher as 4 out of 5 students drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, and use other choice substances (Meda et al., 2017). Such high numbers indicate the prevalence of substance use among school-going children. For most teens, engaging in such practices is for experimentation purposes and trying to fit in among peers. Alcohol and marijuana can serve as gateway drugs to other hard substances with profound impacts on health and wellbeing as well as life outcomes.


How does substance abuse affect the performance of college students?

Altering the brain structure      

The exposure of humans to marijuana during the development stage has long-term adverse effects on the brain. The THC chemical found in marijuana exerts its influence on the endogenous cannabinoid system through CB-1 receptors distributed throughout the brain. The concentration of the receptors is in the cerebellar, prefrontal, hippocampal, and temporal regions. Such areas are responsible for cognitive abilities that include reward processing, executive functioning, and memory. Essentially, the consumption of marijuana affects memory, learning, attention, psychomotor performance, and reward response.

Similar to marijuana, alcohol has an impact on the structure of the brain. Once ingested, alcohol blocks the communication between neurons leading to a state of intoxication, altered behavior, poor memory, and slurred speech as well as slowed reflexes. Drinking over a prolonged period leads to neurotoxicity and damage to the brain matter resulting in shrinkage.

Based on the effects of alcohol and marijuana, users suffer problems in verbal learning, verbal fluency, working memory, processing speed, impulsivity, and spatial processing.


Effects on academic performance   


With alcohol and marijuana use affecting the brain’s structure, this leads to a lower concentration span that in turn affects performance. Students with a lower concentration span will be subject to distractions and the inability to follow instructions. The low concentration emerges from the drugs’ effect on memory and the individual’s cognitive functionality. The implication is that the student will dedicate lesser time to academic issues and hence a drop in performance.

Students engaging in alcohol and marijuana use have a higher likelihood of skipping class as compared to non-users. Substance use leads to poor decision making and this means that individuals skip lessons to engage in social activities with their peers. The fact that such students also have a lower concentration span influences the decision to skip classes. Skipping classes and failing to make up for a long time will lead to poor academic performance as defined by lower grades compared to other students. Students missing classes are not only subject to poor performance but also have a higher likelihood of not graduating. Such individuals drop out of school due to continued poor performance and have unfavorable life outcomes.


Does marijuana affect your ability to study?

How Teen Marijuana and Alcohol use affect Academic Performance

Alcohol and marijuana use also strains the relationship between students thereby limiting the likelihood of collaborations. Substance use leads to behavioral attributes such as a high temper, bullying other students, and even mental health issues. Such factors limit the likelihood of collaborations and working within teams yet this is an important part of the learning process. Modern instructional pedagogy emphasizes the essence of peer-to-peer learning since it engenders knowledge better than passive learning. The implication is that the strained relationships influenced by alcohol and marijuana use limits such possibilities and leads to poor academic performance.

Drug users also face health-related issues such as anxiety, sleeplessness, and headaches. The inability to ensure effective body functioning minimizes the likelihood of engagement in studies and hence poor academic outcomes. Physical and mental wellbeing is necessary for effective functioning within and beyond the classroom. As such, alcohol and marijuana usage is detrimental to the educational wellbeing of the individual.

In conclusion, substance abuse has no defined positive impact on the academic performance of students. As identified, alcohol and marijuana affect the structure and functioning of the brain thereby limiting the individual’s capacity for learning. The two substances affect memory, processing speed, problem-solving abilities, and other critical functions. The outcome is poor concentration, lower grades, and the likelihood that individuals will drop out of school. For parents, teachers, and educators, the onus is theirs with regards to ensuring that students do not engage in such vices.


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Fractl. (2021). High School Drug Use Trends.

Meda, S. et al. (2017). Longitudinal influence of alcohol and marijuana use on academic performance in college students. PLoS ONE, 12(3): e0172213.

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