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“Critical thinking, that is, the capacity and disposition to evaluate propositions and be moved by good reasons” (Guzzo & Rosário Lima, 2018). It has been stated that as humans, critical thinking is actually very difficult despite the ability to have higher thought. Critical thinking, and processing information by good reasoning is thinking without bias and by good reasons. Humans mostly use reasoning that is based on pre-existing beliefs and experiences. In order to truly think critically, people must bring awareness to how they are analyzing, thinking, and reacting to things, which requires a certain level of stress on people’s cognitive abilities in a centered, calm state if mind. Substances, such as drugs, alcohol, or anything stimulating can and does affect these cognitive abilities and thus, our already difficult ability to think critically. Psychoactive drugs, “All do their work at the brain’s synapses, stimulating, inhibiting, or mimicking the activity of the brain’s own chemical messengers, the neurotransmitters” (Myers & Dewall, 2015).

Marijuana is a hallucinogenic drug that is the most popular drug to use amongst college students. Most students use marijuana more than cigarettes and believe it to be less harmful than alcohol. It is used by many college students for social reasons as well as the effects produced by its “high” which can include an increase in joy, decrease in stress, and sometimes mild hallucination like symptoms. Marijuana has also been shown to include side effects that can worsen stress, depression in the long run, and increase agitation or paranoia. Considering the substantial use of the drug by college students while attempting to have academic success, does marijuana impact college students’ cognitive abilities and critical thinking skills?

This paper will analyze the effects of marijuana specifically in college students and how this may impact critical thinking skills. This paper will also analyze multiple sources to determine researched ways in which marijuana may help or hinder college students through its use. The topics covered will include: The reasons why college students use marijuana, the ethics of its us, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the drug.


Reasons Why College Students Use Marijuana

Marijuana has been shown to have multiple therapeutic benefits both physically and mentally; decreasing pain, anxiety, depressive symptoms, as well as creating a relaxed state similar to alcohol without certain adverse effects of drinking, while working faster. Public opinion in students towards marijuana has also increased over alcohol or cigarette usage while the majority believe that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Marijuana is now also legalized federally and therefore creates easy access to college students either being 21 or older themselves or having people who are willing to buy it for them. (Haslam & Sinclair, 2017) (Vidourek, R., King, K., Merianos, A., Burbage, M., & Oluwoye, O, 2018)

Ethical Issues of Using Marijuana

With federal legalization of marijuana, the same ethical concern over the legality of using the drug is much different than before, as using the drug when over the age of 21 creates essentially no legal consequences for the user. However, there is other concern over its use and the prevalent illegal actions surrounding it. Almost half 50 percent of college students are reported to have used marijuana with the majority being introduced to the drug around the age of 18. It is clear that students up to the age of 20 are acquiring marijuana through illegal purchase or use from another person over the age of 21. It is also reported that 23.7% of students have used marijuana and then driven while under the influence of it. (Vidourek, R., King, K., Merianos, A., Burbage, M., & Oluwoye, O, 2018)

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Marijuana

Using Marijuana has been shown decrease stress and pain while also being helpful to those with neuropathic issues that lead to pain and are unable to be treated with prescription drugs. Studies have found that marijuana use has been beneficial to those with mental health issues including depression and anxiety. However, Marijuana can impact education and critical thinking skills which can contribute to academic problems for college students. In the Journal of Psychology of Addictive Behavior, the effects of Marijuana on the brain, particularly on college students are stated as follows, “Marijuana use, particularly heavy use, has been shown to affect working memory, learning, and information processing; functions that are necessary for academic performance” (Arria, A., Caldeira, K., Bugbee, B., Vincent, K., & O’grady, K, 2015). (Haslam, Lucy; Sinclair, Justin. The therapeutic benefits of marijuana, 2017)


This research paper explains the advantages as well as the disadvantages of Marijuana use, while including statistics and facts in the use and legality of marijuana, and the potential effects in cognitive abilities and critical thinking. Marijuana is a drug that is federally legal for purchase and use of those over 21 years old and it has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. However, Marijuana has adverse effects as well as some ethical issues that are associated with the drug despite public opinion regarding its safety, including the decrease in vital brain functions and illegal usage by underage students.


Critical Thinking, being an intellectual skill that can be developed, is naturally something that is reliant on the cognitive abilities of our brain. The ability to process information and therefore analyze in a critical way would be affected directly by anything that would hinder or grow the minds ability to do so. While marijuana has been shown to have multiple benefits in calming the mind, which should potentially be beneficial to our overall rational processing of information, marijuana in it of itself seems to have a negative and deteriorating effect on learning, memory, and information processing. This in turn would affect one’s ability to think critically and the academic success of college students.

Student Opinion

I believe that Marijuana as is generally used by healthy college students, does not have any major advantages besides enjoyment of the feeling obtained when high or the social aspect of using it. People that are dealing with medical issues or mental health disorders that are truly recommended the use of marijuana, typically are not given instructions to smoke it nor get high from it but rather micro-dose with pure THC or sometimes even cannabis without THC and is used in fully developed adults dealing with issues that current medicine has not been able to treat. There are many prescription medications that are given for depression and anxiety with proven results without risk to the brain. However, there are many college students who use marijuana frequently who do seem to be unaffected, which begs the question of more research being done. I also think that there is much bias even within the scientific community that has surrounded marijuana for many years and more research in an unbiased way is needed to find the truth about the effects of marijuana both in the short and long term.

Need for Further Research

Studies have been done multiple times to find the effects of marijuana and how it may hinder cognitive abilities. However, the amount of research that is specific to how, what, and the duration of such effects seems to be a small pool, especially current data. Many current studies have made it clear that 100% evidence of cognitive deterioration has not been attained. Just as with any drug, it is made clear the short-term effects of using marijuana and how the drug will affect cognition and critical thinking skills. More research will be time consuming and difficult but is necessary in discovering the true effects of marijuana specifically if use of the drug has not already been started before young adulthood when plasticity is higher. This would require a controlled study of non-users to agree to begin using marijuana and testing them against abstinent participants in both intelligent examinations as well as brain scans in order to determine long term neurological effects of marijuana.


  1. Arria, A., Caldeira, K., Bugbee, B., Vincent, K., & O’grady, K. (2015). The Academic
  2. Consequences of Marijuana Use During College. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 29(3), 564–575.
  3. Guzzo, G. B., & Valderez Marina do Rosário Lima. (2018). The development of critical thinking in education: A feasible goal? Educação Unisinos, 22(4), 334-343. Retrieved from
  4. Haslam, Lucy; Sinclair, Justin. The therapeutic benefits of marijuana. (2017). Lamp, 74(4), 18–19. Retrieved from
  5. Myers, D. G., & DeWall, C. N. (2015). Psychology (11th ed.).
  6. Vidourek, R., King, K., Merianos, A., Burbage, M., & Oluwoye, O. (2018). MARIJUANA USE AMONG COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS LEGALIZATION.(Report). American Journal of Health Studies, 33(2).

#heathcare #medical #medicalcare #pharmaceuticals #healthcareprofessional #nurses #healthprofessionals

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