“Is Illicit Drug Use Harmful to Cognitive Functioning in the Midadult Years?” That’s the title of a recent report from the American Journal of Epidemiology. Reuters summarizes the results, in part, by saying:
The current findings suggest that for the occasional drug user at mid-life, there are unlikely to be lasting cognitive consequences, according to Halpern.
… “Overall, at the population level, the results seem to suggest that past or even current illicit drug use is not necessarily associated with impaired cognitive functioning in early middle age,” said lead researcher Dr. Alex Dregan, of King’s College London.
This is great news for people who like to smoke pot once a month or do a yearly line of blow at an office party. But it’s annoying news for me because I’ve been avoiding illicit drugs my whole life—only to find I could’ve been having more fun.
I have smoked pot, but it always makes me hallucinate, and since I already take medication specifically designed to curb hallucinations, it seems a waste of Big Pharma’s time and effort and appalling price-fixing schemes. I smoked hash during a semester abroad in college because my Spanish boyfriend was a dealer. I thought I was completely in love with him and remained convinced he was my soulmate until the advent of Facebook, when I discovered he’s a sex addict with terrible taste in music. Maybe the hash made me hallucinate that he was cool.
As far as other drugs, I only have secondhand stories to go by. College friends did Ecstasy, of course, so that they could all say, “Oh my god, I had the BEST SEX OF MY LIFE last night.” I believe I was struggling with the Thursday edition of the New York Times crossword while they were screwing their brains out on MDMA, so it might be that they had more fun. But I was afraid Ecstasy would give me brain damage.
My old friends say our Quaker school was lousy with coke, but I never saw it. Two of my high-school friends became crack addicts, and another was killed in a drug-related shootout with the FBI. Where was I? At home watching Barney Miller reruns, I guess.
To this day, I have never seen cocaine outside of a movie. It seems rather obscene coming from someone whose generation is defined partly by Bright Lights Big City and Less Than Zero. Recently I went to a party and mentioned this—that I’d never tried cocaine. A complete stranger replied, “That’s why you’re depressed.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was being cute and chipper, but apparently I was behaving like an goth teenager on the verge of a suicide attempt.
It’s not like I’m some kind of goody two-shoes. Give me a pill prescribed by a doctor—yours, mine, some guy in Mexico—and I’ll take it. I love pills. One time a guy I know crushed up one of my very legitimately prescribed anxiety pills and snorted it. That blew my mind. He was acting like it was a drug-drug! Very disrespectful.
A couple weeks ago a friend—we’ll call him Lance—said I was so straight, I couldn’t find drugs even if I wanted to try them. I told him that was ridiculous: This is Philly; I have friends who do drugs (or at least did them, at some point). I’m not that much of a nerd that I can’t accomplish the same thing that some kid at Making Time does every weekend. “So do it,” he said. “Find a source for coke or Ecstasy or crystal meth.” (For the benefit of any vice cops reading this: I wasn’t planning to actually procure the drugs. Please don’t arrest me.)
The nature of the challenge made me screen out important details, like drugs kill people, drug buying and selling fosters murder and chaos—that kind of stuff. I just wanted to prove myself. Forgetting that drugs are illegal, I started asking around as though I were inquiring after a roll of paper towels. I reached out to one guy I know who smokes pot—that’s all I know about him when it comes to drugs. But we’re friendly, he’s a really nice guy, so I called. “Hey, how are you? Do you know where I could get coke or Ecstasy or crystal meth? It’s not for me. It’s for a friend.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how I sounded. This nice guy, who will obviously never speak to me again, said, “Yeah. That’s not really my department.” Of course it’s not his department. Whose department is crystal meth?
Bets make people do really silly things. With one humiliation behind me, I decided to just let Lance have the satisfaction of knowing that I am, after all, the kind of person who can’t score drugs. But is that the worst thing? It just means I won’t be jumping into a life as an illicit drug user anytime soon—even if research says it’s okay.