Description: Is it true – does weed stunt your growth? See what the studies have shown regarding the link between early marijuana use and growth.
“Don’t smoke, you’ll stunt your growth!”
We’ve all heard that age-old apocryphal warning, delivered at the end of a crooked finger and repeated so many times it must be true.
Let’s have a look at what the scientists have to say about marijuana and arrested development.
One agreed-upon fact is that children should never partake in smoking. They should not be drawing any smoky or vaporized substance whatsoever into their lungs for recreational purposes. Heck, they shouldn’t be ingesting anything for the purpose of recreational intoxication in any form.
Children’s bodies are still growing and developing. Things can affect them—physically and psychologically–in ways they don’t affect adults. Things that, thanks to legal obstacles faced by the scientific community when it comes to cannabis research, we don’t always fully understand.
Even if that weren’t the case, it’s illegal in all states with legal recreational use for folks under 21 to possess recreational cannabis.
Research has been scant because federal laws classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug (right up there with heroin and LSD). As a result, much of what we thought we knew was based on limited research with tiny samples and questionable methods.
In 2015, that seemed to change with an observational study from the Pir Mehr Ali Shah (PMAS)-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi in Pakistan, presented at Dublin’s European Congress of Endocrinology in 2015.
The study took 427 subjects, half described as “marijuana addicts” and the other half as abstainers.
1.) The “marijuana addict” crowd appeared to reach puberty sooner, but by age 20, an average of four inches shorter and nine pounds lighter than their no-smoke peers.
2.) The imbibing group had higher testosterone and luteinizing hormone (leading to earlier onset of puberty) but less growth hormone than the non-weed smokers.
3.) They also had higher levels of cortisol, which is associated with chronic stress.
That’s pretty damning at first glance; however, upon further examination, this study’s fatal flaw is its observational nature.
Since there is no controlled application and measurement of dose and frequency, there’s no knowing how much weed any given “marijuana addict” actually smoked. Researchers are relying upon personal reports, which may be wildly inaccurate.
In addition, other factors that can influence growth—like socioeconomic factors and family history–were not controlled. Therefore, any number of additional influences could have come into play.
Correlation is not necessarily causation. Without proper controls, this makes the study all intriguing conjecture, but nothing to swear by.
There is a severe shortage of reliable, helpful research on the subject. A 2018 systematic review of literature published in the journal “Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics” examined works relevant to the issue of childhood cannabis use and pubertal outcomes.
This review identified 759 related or relevant studies. Of those, 29 were considered candidates for inclusion and assessed for eligibility, and ultimately, all were disqualified.
Final Thoughts: Does Weed Stunt Growth?
This brings us back to the beginning—can weed stop your growth?
While recent noises coming from Washington may signal better days to come on the research front, the fact is, past federal regulations have severely curtailed research into the effects of Schedule 1 drugs, which has left the scientific community’s hands figuratively tied and their research limited to mostly observational/self-reporting data.
As a result, we don’t know what the effects of cannabis on growth might actually be. However, it’s safe to assume that weed use in minors is not a good mix.
So, what’s the best answer to the burning question “Does marijuana stunt your growth?”
The soundest advice is for folks to wait until physical growth is finished and recreational consumption is legal. After all, You can’t stunt what is already developed.