There is much debate about the impact of adolescent cannabis use on intellectual and educational outcomes. We investigated associations between adolescent cannabis use and IQ and educational attainment in a sample of 2235 teenagers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. By the age of 15, 24% reported having tried cannabis at least once. A series of nested linear regressions was employed, adjusted hierarchically by pre-exposure ability and potential confounds (e.g. cigarette and alcohol use, childhood mental-health symptoms and behavioural problems), to test the relationships between cumulative cannabis use and IQ at the age of 15 and educational performance at the age of 16. After full adjustment, those who had used cannabis ⩾ 50 times did not differ from never-users on either IQ or educational performance. Adjusting for group differences in cigarette smoking dramatically attenuated the associations between cannabis use and both outcomes, and further analyses demonstrated robust associations between cigarette use and educational outcomes, even with cannabis users excluded. These findings suggest that adolescent cannabis use is not associated with IQ or educational performance once adjustment is made for potential confounds, in particular adolescent cigarette use. Modest cannabis use in teenagers may have less cognitive impact than epidemiological surveys of older cohorts have previously suggested.
Keywords: ALSPAC; Cannabis; IQ; cigarettes; education.
© The Author(s) 2016.