How drugs can hinder academic performance


A lot is generally  k n o w n about the effects of drug use on individuals. Among them, the drug users get serious, often fatal health problems; and their personal, social and professional lives are ruined.

But do we specifically know the effects of drugs on student’s academic performance? Well, the answer is yes, and this article dwells on the details of that.


The intoxication as a result of alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on cognitive functions (concentration, memory, attention) for up to 48 hours. This means that if you get intoxicated on the last Friday of classes, your ability to study for finals on both Saturday and Sunday will be impaired.

In turn, this could have a negative impact on your ability to perform during your Monday classes or exams.

If you take alcohol daily, you risk experiencing impaired judgement all the time, which may result into accumulating retakes or scoring low grades.

After a night of heavy drinking, one will have positive blood alcohol levels the next day, affecting whether or not they even get up for class or any other gainful endeavour and, if they do, their ability to process and ultimately store information is greatly diminished.

As a result of drinking, people tend to ‘sleep off the booze’, a common practice of sleeping at the wrong time or late into the day, which interferes with the sleep cycle, resulting into an increase in anxiety, jumpiness, irritability, and fatigue the day after.

“Although most people think it is novel for one to have impaired memory of events that occur during intoxication, alcohol consumption has further-reaching effects on memory and learning ability,” a Duke University study suggests.

“Intoxication is produced by temporary impairment of brain receptors, key in creating long-term memories in the hippocampus,” said Jeff Georgi, a coordinator at the school’s alcohol and addictions programme. “If you study for four hours then go drinking, it affects this anchoring process,” he told Duke’s Chronicle. In addition, young adults seem to have more trouble than older adults learning while drinking, the study suggests. After two drinks in one hour, the study revealed, subjects aged 21 to 24 fared worse on a test of verbal and visual memory than subjects aged 25 to 29.


Marijuana has similar impacts on sleep as alcohol does: throwing the sleep cycle off balance and impacting how a person feels for at least two additional days after use.

Marijuana suppresses neuronal activity in the hippocampus, resulting in problems with attention, memory, and concentration.

There is increasing evidence that there is an impact to motivation following marijuana use. This could be due to the effect of THC in the body blocking the passage of nutrients through cells, the neuronal suppression in the hippocampus, or the decrease in energy accompanying the fatigue that follows night time use. (THC is the active ingredient in marijuana and the chemical responsible for giving users the ‘height’).

Marijuana also significantly increases heart rate, weakens the heart muscles, and affects blood pressure. The increase in heart rate can be a concern for someone already dealing with anxiety (and particularly panic).

So, students should avoid alcohol and drug use due to the many negative effects outline above.

Tumuhirwe is an Addiction Counsellor Prevention Specialist