This is Your Brain on Drugs: The Correlation between Drugs and IQ
Posted Apr 22 2013 10:08pm
The relationship between the human mind and illicit drugs is a complicated one, to say the least. We have been taught for all of our lives that drugs harm the brain. The neurological tissues are important and drugs damage this vital tissue. Ergo, drugs are terrible for our brains. Yet, it isn’t the spleen that tempts you into taking a hit of ecstasy or smoke a blunt. It’s the brain. The same organ that needs protection is the one that demands to be harmed.
For this, and many other social stigmas and stereotypes, we tend to have a collective view of what the average drug user looks like. They tend to be unambitious, and extremely unintelligent. That last one seems to ring the most true after a superficial analysis. After all, we wouldn’t expect an intelligent mind to be the one demanding to be harmed. A smart brain would be able to logically deduce that it would be harmed in the pursuit of dopamine and pleasure. Right?
Recent studies from the United States and the UK have shown evidence that is shockingly against this paradigm. In fact, when it comes down to it, the results of the numerous studies tend to point to exact contrary. It’s the most intelligent people who tend to seek out the drug high. But they’re also the ones that fall the most after continued usage.
Scientists determined the IQ levels of a number of students in elementary schools. From there, they went on to track what they eventually did with their lives. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the bums in the back of the class that ended up addicted to opioids, narcotics, and cannabis. It was those who scored highest on the IQ tests that had the proclivity to not only try drugs, but to become addicted to them over the long haul.
The researchers postulate that it’s the children’s very intelligence that plays against them here. A more developed brain with a higher IQ may experience more pleasure from the drugs than someone with a bellow average IQ.
Interestingly enough, prolonged usage decreases their cognitive abilities significantly. Studies of individuals who consistently used marijuana found that those who started using the drug before they turned 18 experienced an average IQ drop of 8 points. Although that doesn’t sound very significant, it’s almost enough to bring someone down from above average to below average– depending on their initial scores.
The relationship between drugs and IQ is extremely complicated. However, as more research is done in the future, we’ll be able to further understand the nuances of usage and addiction within our western society.