The effects of adolescent cannabis use on educational attainment: a review

Addiction. 2000 Nov;95(11):1621-30. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.2000.951116213.x.


This paper reviews research examining the link between cannabis use and educational attainment among youth. Cross-sectional studies have revealed significant associations between cannabis use and a range of measures of educational performance including lower grade point average, less satisfaction with school, negative attitudes to school, increased rates of school absenteeism and poor school performance. However, results of cross-sectional studies cannot be used to determine whether cannabis use causes poor educational performance, poor educational performance is a cause of cannabis use or whether both outcomes are a reflection of common risk factors. Nonetheless, a number of prospective longitudinal studies have indicated that early cannabis use may significantly increase risks of subsequent poor school performance and, in particular, early school leaving. This association has remained after control for a wide range of prospectively assessed covariates. Possible mechanisms underlying an association between early cannabis use and educational attainment include the possibility that cannabis use induces an 'amotivational syndrome' or that cannabis use causes cognitive impairment. However, there appears to be relatively little empirical support for these hypotheses. It is proposed that the link between early cannabis use and educational attainment arises because of the social context within which cannabis is used. In particular, early cannabis use appears to be associated with the adoption of an anti-conventional lifestyle characterized by affiliations with delinquent and substance using peers, and the precocious adoption of adult roles including early school leaving, leaving the parental home and early parenthood.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology*
  • Motivation
  • Student Dropouts
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology