Cannabis users are no strangers to being judged based on unproven stereotypes. For decades we were told that marijuana use would kill our brain cells, fill our lungs with cancer and lead us down a road to harder drugs and eventually an early death. And while the Internet has done much to dispel those myths, the spread of information works both ways.
The same speed with which true information can be spread also comes into play with new myths that have cropped up in recent years. One of the most persistent new myths regarding cannabis use is the fabled IQ drop. Almost every reference to the “loss of IQ points” from marijuana use can be traced back to a single study from New Zealand in 2012 involving researchers from Duke University and other educational establishments.
The upshot of the study is that early cannabis use can lead to a loss of up to 8 IQ points and poorer cognitive performance in adulthood. Despite the fact that this study has been questioned, criticized, called out by other research in the same journal the study was originally published in and directly contradicted by other studies, the IQ myth persists.
I see it mentioned in dozens of articles a year – even to this day – and it was even referenced by President Trump in a recently published video secretly recorded by Lev Parnas of Rudy Giuliani/impeachment fame. In the video, Trump makes reference to marijuana use making people “lose IQ points”.
I think one of the reasons this myth has become so entrenched is that it plays into the stereotypes many people still have about marijuana users, that they are stupid and lazy and a drain on society. Looking slightly deeper into the issue would show the flimsiness this myth is built on to many, but unfortunately our “share the article based on the title without reading it” culture easily falls prey to the notion that a single study cited settles an issue.
The Internet is a double-edged sword, much like everything else in life. False information will travel just as fast as true information, and if something is repeated enough, many will believe it.
It can be frustrating, but all we can do is continue to battle the bad info with the good. The Internet is a vast place and every day is a battle over the information it contains.