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What Are the Effects of Marijuana Use on College Students?

author image Linda Ray
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."
What Are the Effects of Marijuana Use on College Students?
Marijuana use can greatly affect a student. Photo Credit: Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images

According to the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, nearly one-third of all Americans have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. Marijuana, also called pot or weed, is considered a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs with more serious consequences. In itself, marijuana is rife with serious side effects, especially on developing minds and bodies. College students, already stressed with adult responsibilities and classes, often turn to pot for release, not fully realizing the effects of marijuana use.

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Grades and academic achievement are almost always associated with drug abuse in college students, reports the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention. Students who smoke pot are more likely to spend inordinate amounts of time at parties and less time studying. Students who use marijuana are less likely to spend any more than two hours per day in studies and typically carry a B average or less. Students who use marijuana tend to have difficulty concentrating, poor judgment capabilities and diminished long-term memory. Long-term use leads to depleted motivation and concern about the future and their careers.

Risky Behavior

Marijuana users also gravitate toward other high-risk behaviors out of personality tendencies and the released inhibitions that accompany marijuana users. Nine out of ten college-aged marijuana users also drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. They become involved in risky sexual behaviors that put them at an increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Because marijuana slows reaction times, driving under the influence puts students at greater risk for being involved in an automobile accident.


Marijuana smokers of all ages are at a high risk for developing respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema. College students who are still in the developmental stages also face delays in sexual development and a decrease in sperm production. Pot smoking can disrupt menstrual cycles and lead to a decrease in ovulation. Marijuana use damages the immune system, leaving students at higher risk of developing infection and having slower healing rates from common illnesses like the cold or flu.

Personality Changes

The immediate effects of marijuana use in college students are almost always apparent. Upon inhalation of the THC chemicals in marijuana, students experience increased heart rate, dry mouth and blood shot eyes. They lose coordination and have difficulty speaking and listening, interrupting class work and social relationships. The altered states of being high make it more difficult to acquire and retain new information and comprehend new ideas and information. Marijuana is psychologically addicting, which can lead to the need for treatment and loss of time that could be spent towards a degree.

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