Monday, January 14, 2013

Say No to Pot, and Say Yes to Cognitive Enhancement

There are a lot of studies lately going back and forth on whether or not smoking pot is harmful to your brain. Does it lower your IQ? Is that change is permanent, or does it only last for the duration that you are smoking it? Here’s the scoop:

EVERYTHING YOU DO CHANGES YOUR BRAIN. Everything. Large or small, it all has an effect. You’ve heard me say this before, a bazillion times. Purposefully doing things to enhance cognition will improve your brain. Doing things that hinder cognition will hurt your brain long-term. 


Forget about whether or not pot actually kills brain cells or synaptic connections on a chemical level. What’s worse about pot is that it kills your motivation. Also, it slows your reaction times. This means your world is in slow motion and you’ve embraced the Honey Badger mentality of cognition: you just don’t give a fuck.

So you won’t be spending your time reading, or engaging in cognitively intensive activities that challenge your brain in a meaningful way, enhancing cognition. You will be getting LESS smart every single day that you smoke pot, because you aren’t pushing your brain to be in top form, thinking at the highest level you can. You are cruising through life, doing the bare minimum when it comes to cognition. You aren’t challenging yourself; you are coasting. Coasting is not one of the Five Ways to Increase Intelligence.

I know some people claim that smoking pot helps them ‘think more creatively’, but what it really does is get super-inflexible thinkers to break out of their rigid thinking pattern. The true quality of their ideas isn’t necessarily any better. Not to mention, non-rigid and weird does not equal successful creativity, either. But if that is your goal, then hey—smoke away. But don’t think it is making you smarter, because it isn’t.

If you want to get high now and then, that is your choice. But if you truly care about IQ, intelligence, and performing at your cognitive best, then smoking pot (especially very frequently) will hurt you. Bottom line.


  1. And if we truly cared about physical fitness we would all be out running in circles, instead of posting on blogs.

    1. OR... we go running after posting on blogs because posting on blogs is part of our job.

      Nice try.

    2. Well said you have lots of power doing this.

  2. We can push your thesis further.
    Every minute spent watching movies and television is a minute not spent memorizing log tables.
    Anything that does not tax one's powers of calculation or concentration erodes our potential mental peak.
    I could provide other examples but I've run out of dope.

    1. That would be quite a Utopian world, wouldn't it? 100% productivity, as you put it.

      Nevertheless, Andrea seems to be weighing the whole dope vs no dope situation and within that context, she makes a compelling point.

      What you say is definitely true, with multiple studies indicating the detrimental effects of excessive TV and movies. But since TV is such an integral part of our lives, we seem to ignore all the alerts (as we usually do for fast food or exercise).

      Considering that smoking pot hasn't yet become so acceptably prevalent, there still is time to talk about its effects.

      It has become a case of controlling damage now!

  3. Nice call out, too bad this country is so polarized that folk need to illustrate other areas where discretion should be used in spite of the need for moderation. They are the true addicts. I think that Marijuana, just like alcohol and foods(Twinkie) should be moderated, but not in the Land O' The Free. Keep sticking it too the man, for all we know he smokes out hourly in order to maintain his sense of paranoia.

  4. Any evidence for any of this, or just a bunch of assertions? I know a lot of people whose behavior seems to call your thesis here into question--people who smoke a lot of pot, but also get a lot of very high quality work done. Yes, everything you do changes your brain, but individual brains can also vary significantly in how they respond to particular inputs, including chemicals. This seems like a very blanket generalization without a lot to back it up.

  5. Purposely doing things to enhance cognition will improve your brain. Why you fail to recognize marijuana as something you can use to 'do things to enhance cognition' is unknown to me.

    "You will be getting LESS smart every single day that you smoke pot, because you aren’t pushing your brain to be in top form, thinking at the highest level you can. You are cruising through life, doing the bare minimum when it comes to cognition. You aren’t challenging yourself; you are coasting."

    That is one way to use pot. You can use it in a multitude of ways.

    "what it really does is get super-inflexible thinkers to break out of their rigid thinking pattern."
    I hope it doesn't offend you, but you seem to be demonstrating a rigid thinking pattern about how pot affects people, thinking that one set of experiences will apply to all people.

    What results from marijuana depends on two things, who you are and what you use it for.

  6. I'm working on a game that will integrate cognitive training with a fun storyline. I am specifically aiming to help individuals with serious mental "illnesses" that have run afoul with the law and have been found unable to aid and assist. Psychiatric hospitals (ironically) are one of the worst places in the world to have an idle brain that is not being challenged. We can change that (or at least mitigate it with the use of a fun game).
    I'd love your thoughts on it. I believe it could be made to address the masses as well: we all need to stay sharp.

  7. it hurts that I disagree with the author. but I loved reading it.

  8. you're basically saying "pot is bad for your brain because the time you're spending high you're not training your brain". that is obviously true, but if you are looking at things that narrowly eating, sleeping, sex, sport, ..., are bad for your brain as well.
    also your aim to train your brain will never take up all your waking time, only few hours a day max. and in my opinion it shouldn't, mindfulness meditation is supposed to be very good for your brain and it's opposite of what seems to be your concept of "brain training"
    basically don't smoke pot too often and it's all fine, but one can say that about EVERYTHING, including food, water, oxygen, ...

  9. What if you are as "smart" as you want to be? will smoking pot make you stupider or just maintain the level of intelligence that you have?

  10. Vodka is not marijuana but I volunteer for further research:

    "Men who drank themselves tipsy solved more problems demanding verbal resourcefulness in less time than sober guys did, a new study finds."

  11. Another possible rationale for using pot: intoxication MAY lower an individual's intelligence while boosting the group's overall survival.

    A party is always better with a few loose cannons.

  12. Reference, for those who asked.

    "Recent reports show that fewer adolescents believe that regular cannabis use is harmful to health. Concomitantly, adolescents are initiating cannabis use at younger ages, and more adolescents are using cannabis on a daily basis. The purpose of the present study was to test the association between persistent cannabis use and neuropsychological decline and determine whether decline is concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Participants were members of the Dunedin Study, a prospective study of a birth cohort of 1,037 individuals followed from birth (1972/1973) to age 38 y. Cannabis use was ascertained in interviews at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 y. Neuropsychological testing was conducted at age 13 y, before initiation of cannabis use, and again at age 38 y, after a pattern of persistent cannabis use had developed. Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users."

    Now, I'm not saying that pot causes damage to your neurons as a function of its chemical properties--I'm saying that the temporary anti-motivational effect, repeated frequently over a long time, causes shifts in behavior. These behaviors (cognitive laziness) persist and turn into habits. Habits are very hard to break once you fall into a pattern of behavior.. especially behavior that is easy to maintain.

    Getting smarter and increasing your cognitive power takes hard work; long-term smoking pot makes you less likely to take those tough steps to really push your brain into a state of constant mild discomfort--but that's where you need to live if you want to maximize your potential.

  13. This explains why Feynman, Lennon, Sagan, Steve Jobs, SJGould, Crick and Kary Mullis are such complete slacker idiots.

  14. Or maybe Andrea is just full of shit and doesn't know what the hell she is talking about. Let me consider that now, as I light a J. Yes, that's better! Yes, Andrea IS actually full of shit. What's really true here, Andrea-baby, is that it is you that has neuron deficiencies. You ignore all evidence to the contrary and then post this BS. Did you make all this up? No, you pulled it out of your ass! Do the world a favor and stick it back where it came from , biatch!

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  16. Your logic is not sound. Are you sure you're not drunk?