Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are Drug Users Smarter Than the Rest of Us? Or Are Too Many Scientists Irresponsible Publicity Hounds?

A particularly vicious meme is being disseminated by ostensibly respectable publications such as Business Insider and Psychology Today, and echoed by a few misguided proponents of decriminalization of drugs, which is that users of illegal street drugs are smarter than the rest of us.

Huh?? Anybody who has ever had to interact with a habitual drug user on a daily basis will be pretty skeptical of the laughable  "findings" of a study whose methodology and veracity are questionable at best; and proponents of drug law liberalization are advised to be cautious about using them as an argument against prohibition. There are many rational arguments against our War on Drugs and  our savage drug laws, but there is no way that anyone can reasonably assert that drug use is good, or that it indicates more intelligence than the Gods gave a yeast culture; and anyone who makes such a claim in order to justify decriminalization of street drugs is damaging the credibility of the anti-prohibition movement,  and justifying its opposition.

According to the Business Insider, the smarter you are, the more likely you are to use recreational drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.The Insider quotes Psychology Today, a lightweight popular publication for non-professional readers, and an organization vaguely identified only as National Child Development, without supplying any links or precise identification for this organization:
"According to Psychology Today, people who use more drugs are more intelligent.  "Intelligent people don't always do the right thing," they write, "only the evolutionarily novel thing." 
According to a study conducted by National Child Development, "more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children." These drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, alcohol and tobacco."

Not surprisingly, not too many people are buying this, least of all  the people who are involved in dealing with the human destruction wrought by drug addiction and the drug trade. People who have to deal with users on a daily basis can tell you that these people display a lot of interesting traits, but intelligence isn't one of them.

In view of millions of  people whose bodies and lives have been destroyed by drugs, and the millions more who have been destroyed by alcohol, it's extremely difficult to see how anyone can describe as intelligent  the decision to use substances that are powerfully addictive, often cause permanent brain damage, serious illness, and death; destroy the ability to think rationally while triggering violent impulses and criminal behavior; force the user into close contact with violent criminals, put him at risk for arrest and incarceration; and don't even make him feel good.

The scientific community has sacrificed a lot of its former credibility and prestige by publicizing the findings of badly conceived and improperly conducted "studies" that have not been verified or peer-reviewed before releasing them to the uncritical and credulous public, and anti-prohibition activists won't enhance their own by referring to them to support an unpopular stance on a controversial matter of such life-and-death importance as the Drug War


Anonymous said...

The authors never wrote that using drugs was intelligent; rather that people who use drugs tend to do higher on IQ tests.

Hope this helps.

The North Coast said...

Yes, Dear, I KNOW that.

And that's what I find incredible... and will not buy.

I want to know how this study was conducted, and if it was peer-reviewed. How many people were sampled? And what other factors were involved? Did this study sample the people who are occupying prison cells, mental institutions, and halfway houses? Did it sample the guys dealing in all of our open air drug markets? I doubt it, and I feel very sure that a sampling of each population that was broad and inclusive would find drug users to be considerably less intelligent on the average.

The researchers claim that people who engage in "novel" behaviors are more intelligent than average and that might be the case. However there is nothing "novel" about the use of street drugs or abuse of liquor and tobacco. The human species has been zoning out on intoxicants since the dawn of time and the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse are extremely well-documented.

Highly intelligent people do not engage in behaviors that they know will shortly lead to crippling addictions, associations with criminals, erratic behavior, incarceration, and a drastically shorter lifespan. While a person can control his liquor consumption, and defer death by tobacco a long ways out, there is no denying the drastic harm street drugs do.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard the phrase "too stupid to get into trouble?"

You also may not know that some drugs, such as heroin, tend to be much less harmful and addictive when taken by rich people with little stress in their lives.

The public is fed images of losers living in the streets taking drugs; the many lawyers and brokers who do so as well don't fit into the scare story.

The North Coast said...

Ya, I've heard that idiotic phrase, and I'll point only to the prison population by way of answer. I believe that you will agree that most of the folks who get into the most trouble-criminals- tend to cluster around the left end of the Bell curve.

Heroin and cocaine may not gut the lives of the rich so much because they can afford the advanced medical care they will need after becoming addicts, and they often don't have to worry about where they'll get the money for housing and other necessities because they have trust funds. Yet many of them end up becoming the FORMER rich, as they run through their money, and eventually lose the support systems they took for granted. I once knew a couple of drug addicted trust fund kids who were living in scummy SRO hotels and looking like any other street derelict. Their relatives wanted nothing to do with them and they ended up among the street poor as their inherited funds, which someone unwisely left them as lump sums, ran out.

As for "lawyers and brokers"-these are the most conspicuous failures. Listen, I was a stockbroker for ten years and am still in the industry as a compliance officer. 95% of the brokers I worked with washed out of the business bankrupt and failed. The first to fail were the cretins in my office who snorted coke incessantly. They ran unauthorized trades, didn't show up for work half the time, and spent their entire paychecks on blow. By age 30, they were washed out of the business, which is very tough for anyone to succeed in, and often lost their licenses for abuses of customer accounts. Most brokers are nowhere near rich and never were, and the durable successes in this business do not do drugs. Please, you sound like an idiot, really you do.

Anonymous said...

I have never ingested an illicit drug in my life, lest you think this motivates me. That drugs do destroy some people is a given and I'll stipulate your experiences for the sake of discussion.

Arguing that drug abuse specifically is tied to low IQs because crime generally is, not only doesn't prove your case; it suggests it's weak.

If disagreeing with you, or having had other life experiences and drawn my conclusions from them make me an idiot... well actually it doesn't.

All I will say is that cocaine, for example, when ingested by humans, is partially turned into a metabolite with a known and fairly lengthy half-life. Scientists who have measured the amounts of this metabolite in sewage treatment plants in affluent cities have time and again found such stunningly high levels of it that the cities would have to be close to Liberia in terms of dysfunction if your theories were true.

The theories you propound benefit many; politicians who can lock losers up, drug mafias that make huge markups because the product is banned, cops and politicians who are on the take, "drug educators" who are paid to scare children with (admittedly true) worst case stories, political elites in third world countries that earn far more for some crops than others.... but the science is not there.

The North Coast said...

There is some truth in what you claim, which is that drug users are not necessarily low in intelligence.

After all, the young people with drug addiction problems who are members of my personal circle are rather bright, really, though not as bright as surely not as well-centered as their siblings and friends who are non-users.

My point is that the typical drug user is most likely not as bright as the typical users, though there are many dull people who are non-users and many extremely bright people among users.

My problem with this study is that it helps to glamorize drug use, and gives teen users a great excuse to experiment with them. As it is, prohibition has given drug use a glamor it would never have had if you could just get a script for it at the doctor's office, just as liquor prohibition made drinkers out of people who would have not taken much interest in it previously- for example, women, who are usually not the least bit interested in hard liquor, mainly because it is so much harder on female bodies than male.

Worse, this study will infuriate the pro-prohibition people, which include parents who are coping with teens whose lives are being destroyed by their addiction. These people understandably are infuriated by anything that appears to glamorize this parade of self-destruction, and they will seize upon it as justification for their support of prohibition, as proof that those who promote legalization are also pro-drug.

I am opposed to prohibition because I believe that it has caused more addiction than it has prevented, especially among youngsters, by turning control of distribution over to criminals, and it has destroyed our city neighborhoods by enriching criminal gangs, and is turning our country into a police state and justifying the violation of our civil rights.

Therefore, I wish the scientific community would be a little more responsible about the way they conduct and publicize their studies. I would like to see, for example, a broad, rigorous study conducted to discover WHY intelligent young people adopt drugs to begin with,in the face of overwhelming evidence of the likely consequences.

Anonymous said...

In life, one of the way people can be divided is into those who can use logic and deductive reasoning to form their opinions, and those who can't and must regurgitate what they are told. I try to eschew arguments with the latter, because the dividends are minute.

The indisputable fact of the matter is that there are the quiet drug users, many of whom few suspect suspected, who do not come to grief from them. Newspapers and drug warriors are all about the bad news.

If the facts don't fit with one's theories, one is wiser to ask oneself why, rather than to loudly damn the messengers who bring the tidings.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your blog, like the topics you write about!

However, I wonder if you have ever worked in financial services? The reason I ask is because working in such an environment really leads you to believe that the smart guys in the room are high all the time. The use of alcohol and cocaine (and marijuana on a lesser extent) is very high in the medium sized hedge fund I work at. The really smart people are often on so much pressure that they do succumb to substance abuse. Sometimes these people get themselves fired or publicly humiliate themselves, but not always.

I'm not saying that doing drugs or drinking too much is smart, but sometimes smart people have so much pressure and expectation on them that they take drugs to escape.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the IQ test is used as the standard of measurement invalidates the test. IQ test is not adequate way to measure "intelligence" or "being smart", which themselves are highly subjective concepts anyways.

The North Coast said...

To Anonymous no. 2- Thanks for the compliment, and YES, I have worked in financial services for over 20 years, first as a stockbroker and then as a compliance officer.

What I found was that the brokers meant for the business (the "smart" ones) handled the immense pressures of the job well enough to avoid substance abuse while building successful durable careers. I know a couple of these paragons and they care for their clients and have extremely good, clean personal habits. These people are rare, because this business washes out 90% of the people who enter it, including some highly intelligent people who simply do not have the eye of the tiger, the tooth of the pit bull, and the stomach of the goat. Everyone else is more or less destroyed by the pressure, and I was too. My addictions were cigarettes and sweet junk, and my smoking and weight both skyrocketed, and after 10 miserable years, I was done with being a broker. Alcoholism and drug abuse were endemic in the offices I worked in, and the users tended to snort or drink their way out of the business within a couple of years.

To Anonymous no..3- You are correct, the IQ test is an inadequate measure of intelligence, or even the ability to succeed academically. Had a classmate who scored very low on her IQ tests yet scored As in calculus and trigonometry and physics consistently, and scored in the high 700s on her SAT and ACT tests. IQ tests don't explain jazz music or many other wonderful artistic and INTELLECTUAL achievements and our educational establishment assigns too much importance to these tests.

Anonymous said...

Anon #2, thank you for confirming my assertions.

Anon #1.

Anonymous said...

Hey Laura,

How are you doing up there? Stay safe.

The North Coast said...

Thanks for your concern, anon.

I'm doing pretty well in this. Our building is warm and I have a nice rail line within a couple of blocks, so I'm not out on the road in a car.
There's nothing like a blizzard to make a person appreciate rail transportation, which is the most beautiful and reliable form of travel there is. The planes are grounded and the autos and buses are sliding around and getting stuck, but the trains just walk right through this slop.

orionoir said...

merely from personal experience, i'd say there are many substances that boost measurable iq in the short term (eg, the length of an iq test.)

whether there's a relationship between performance on an iq test and "intelligence" is another issue entirely. ditto for whether drug effects are important variables.

imho, affect (mood) is key -- the times i've scorched tests, for all of them i've been manic (high.) when depressed i score at the bottom of my range.

orionoir said...

btw, the trains in the ny metro area failed miserably with the snow. amtrak is like a disease.

Rogers Parker said...

Legalize it all, I mean really, we spend billions as a nation every year to house people convicted of drug crimes, when that could be re-diverted into something like education, rehabilitation, and even more, the government has the ability to tax a new "cash crop" and even more create jobs for farmers with new and viable crops, jobs for manufacturing and industry, and bring in tax revenues to a financially strapped economy.

And if employers don't want people who use drugs working for them, don't hire them, and make testing stricter. I mean I think in most professions, drinking is still unacceptable

The North Coast said...

Rogers Parker,I'm altogether on board with complete, total, across-the-board legalization. We have 80 years of proof that prohibition does not work

Prohibition has not kept ONE person who really wants to use this junk from obtaining it, least of all youngsters. All it has accomplished is to make drugs more readily available to underage kids than tobacco or alcohol; corrupt our law enforcement; turn our urban neighborhoods into violence-torn snake pits; and make a particularly vicious class of criminals obscenely wealthy.

Prohibition does not work as laws against real crimes do work, because prohibition is a violation of Natural Law. No society has ever succeeded in telling people what they may do with their own bodies though every society has tried, with disastrous results. Violence and brutality and incredible corruption and lawlessness are the only end result of attempting to order people around in their most personal space.

Anonymous said...

This blog posting was increasingly biased

Anonymous said...

i agree , this blog is one-sided and as a side note here is food for the thought: Benjamin Franklin was a known cannabis smoker and George Washington grew marijuana at mount vernon. Also William Shakespeare possessed 44 pipes with cannabis resin.

Pharmaexposure Team said...

Completely true....
Very nice blog.
Fantastic job !

Anonymous said...

What you are describing in your blog by saying "People who have to deal with users on a daily basis can tell you that these people display a lot of interesting traits, but intelligence isn't one of them." sounds more like an addict.

There is a distinct difference between a drug user and a drug addict. People often make the false connection between drugs and negative social consequences. The real blame lies on the individual. I know plenty of people whom are incredibly intelligent and function just fine while recreationally (one time a week or less) doing drugs that most would consider "hard substances". The key as with anything is self-control and moderation.

Personally, I think really intelligent people who are inherently curious are just as likely to try drugs as are less intelligent people unable to make sense of the world and their emotions. Taking both ends of the spectrum for different reasons, I would also think that the middle class average joe would be the least likely to try a mind-altering substance.

holiday ham said...

I almost feed bad for 'northcoast'. The ignorance truly abounds. To make blanket assumptions about people based upon whatever your misinformed parents or your lower middle-class high school taught you about drugs is comical at best, sad at worst. This is not the only study that has confirmed these sentiments. Harvard released a study discussing how drug-users tend to be at a much deeper level of introspection than non drug-users. Its REALLY easy to work 9-5 everyday, go to your cubical, try to get someone to invest in a mutual fund, make 60k a year, marry a below-average looking housewife, work until your 65 and die unhappy and unfulfilled. If you are not taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture, about life, the universe, and what exactly is going on here, then you are just frankly wasting resources. I dont make blanket assumptions about people that believe in a god or four even though religion has been proven to be a function of societies way of dealing with fear of the unknown. Theres hugely intelligent people that believe in god(s) and more power to them.

What you are doing is ignorant, hypocritical, and just flat out stupid. You dont understand addiction, the logic behind it, the reasons behind it, and the function of it, so you attempt to dismiss it with ungrounded babble you probably heard on c-span. There is a MULTITUDE of reasons why a person can become addicted to a drug and summing it up as 'bad choice' just proves that Im wasting my time even typing this. You are on a whole different wave length to which I highly doubt you could even grip the idea behind addiction. Addiction, like your mindset, is a primitive function from before humans took a step back from this rat-race wheel we were all thrown into unwillingly. It was to ensure we would go seek things that our brains and bodies percieved as 'good' and avoided things as threatening or 'bad'. We are creatures of habit. Becoming conscious of the world around us has done more than just put us at the top of the food chain. It has enabled us to do things that our brain is tricked into thinking is 'useful' and 'necessary' and thus form a physical and mental addiction. But really, thats all moot point.

I just had no choice but to comment on your blatant ignorance. Maybe you were born in the wrong era. Maybe youd be better off in the 1920s when people believed people born with things such as downsyndrome were sinners, imbeciles, and mutants.

But then again, it probably IS best that you feel the way you do about drugs and drug users. Because I think its quite evident to anyone reading this that is remotely intuitive, that you obviously do not possess the willpower, strength of mind or body, and mnetal fortitude to overcome an addiction. It must be natures way of protecting the unevolved.


The North Coast said...

Ham, as it happens, I have a quite few dogs in this hunt. My "lower middle class" parents, as you call them, taught me nothing- everything I know is from watching a 40 year parade of human destruction that marched past me and has included way too many people very dear to me.

I personally report a close relative who is addicted to heroin at the age of 22, and who has witnessed the deaths of 4 addicted friends who all died, mostly of overdoses, before the age of 20. I love this kid dearly and so do his other close relatives, and I have no words adequate to convey how painful and terrifying it is for us to witness his battle with this addiction, especially since we know that most heroin addicts do not recover. The recidivism rate is something like 85%- only 14% beat this terrible addiction.

I also report 5 personal friends who died before the age of 40 from the effects of drug abuse, and they were mostly suicides. We all grew up in the 60s, when drug use was rampant and many young people lost their sanity and/or lives to drug abuse.

Every party I went to 1968-1973 got busted and several of my friends did. Every event I attended had a veritable buffet of drugs to choose from, from plain old grass to cocaine to just about every prescription trank or "upper" ever formulated. Cocaine use was rampant among the people I ran with later on, in the 70s and 80s. Many of the coke users were financially successful, but their money did them little lasting good since it mostly went up their noses. Many people I knew from those years, all very nice people, ended up dead, or in mental institutions, or on the streets.

Oh, I know why people become addicted. I could easily have been one of these people. But I watched one friend die when I was 23, and watched others become deranged and end up living on the streets and finally in institutions, and then die, at age 37, or 43, or 48, never having recovered their wits or ability to function as an adult.

These people did not deserve what happened to them. They committed no crimes. All they wanted to do was feel good and they shouldn't have had to pay so dearly for that. Yet, they all were at least reasonably intelligent and had ample information regarding the effects of the substances and the ease with which a person can become dependent on them-and the difficulty of breaking that dependence. This information is widely disseminated and available to anyone who cares to look.

So, in view of the damage these substances do and the difficulty of ending dependence on them, I consider it criminally irresponsible of anyone with scientific credentials to promulgate the notion that use of these drugs is in any manner beneficial, or indicative of superior intelligence. I continue to favor ending drug prohibition, but that is not the same thing as encouraging the belief that these substances are in any manner good for a person, because they aren't.

Your comment is idiotic and sheds more heat than light. It shows you missed the entire point of my post, which is simply to state that it is irresponsible for people who surely know better to in any manner encourage young people in the belief that there is anything righteous or "cool" about drug use.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to shed a little light. Took an IQ test yesterday and scored 132. I am a 26 year old male who has used drugs in excess from 13-25. Mainly heroin. I also have many friends who are also addicts in recovery who have scored much higher than myself.

Anonymous said...

One more thing i neglected to mention was that when I was in treatment, the majority of people there hadn't been to college, most didn't even graduate high school. Yet, they were able to compute math problems in their head comprable to those that had. There was also a great deal of talented musicians. There were also 42 left handed people and only 27 right. In no way should anyone criticize the author for merely bringing up a point. There are some interesting characteristics of different kinds of people. Many of you sheltered assholes need not judge, instead, lower your noses and listen.
-Same as above poster

Shawn said...

I think that there are reasons for the general public to realize that drug addicts and/or recovering addicts are just as intelligent as non users. One that I can think of is very personal. I I lost my job working in a hospital in xray because they said I was too critical of my coworkers images. After a year of not finding a new job, I started using drugs as a way to feel good. I felt demoralize and depressed because my self value had eroded. I eventually got arrested of possession of a controlled substance... And now I am REALLY going to find it difficult to find employment, or let alone as doing what u was trained for, and very skilled at. I had a 3.895 gpa in college and received a 95 on my registry exam. Regardless, i am discriminated against for a variety of reasons because I used drugs when I was just so broken hearted. It has nothing to do with my intelligence. I realize I made poor choices, and but that doesn't define me. If anything, but being addicted and in my situation in general made me learn more about myself and empathy in general. I am not so quick to judge other people. I think that denying that drug users are just as prone to intelligence as anyone else is propagating a stereotype and leads to awful discrimination that can ruin people's lives as much as the drugs themselves. Naturally we should try to figure this out and learn MORE about the concepts and realities instead of trying to squelch it just to sell the idea to kids and young adults that drugs are bad. I think you made your own point about prohibition...telling them its bad and saying, "No!" won't work as well as the truth would. It reminds me of people who don't want to allow gay marriage because it might confuse their children. It seems the preferred method is for their kids to learn about "fags" at school during recess. In my family, when I found my boyfriend, we explained to my 6year old nice, in a g–rated fashion that there are some people who are gay,(like me) who love people of the same sex. Some people would think that s too much for their little minds. Well it wasn't a problem. She just said, I "oh, okay."