Sex and Health

Drinking and smoking pot may equal intelligence

Beer, wine, vodka, weed or whatever — it shouldn’t be a surprise that come spring break, a lot of students across the country will forget their textbooks and focus on partying.

What may come as a surprise is that there might be a positive association between alcohol and pot consumption and academic success. Yes, you read that correctly.

According to a study published in the “British Medical Journal Open” last week, adolescents and young adults with high academic ability are more likely to drink alcohol regularly and use cannabis. The study followed more than 6,000 students. The researchers surveyed their alcohol, cigarette and cannabis use and then tested their academic skills-across the span of seven years.

While common sense may lead us to believe otherwise, this study offers an alternative viewpoint that every pot-head and Fireball-loving guy or gal would love to be true: Regular alcohol and weed use may not necessarily mean less academic success.

A CNN article describing the study offers the voices of several experts, most of them partially surprised by the results. For instance, Pat Aloise-Young, a psychiatrist and professor at Colorado State University told CNN that the results of this study are often found to be the opposite in the United States when it comes to high school students, but the same for higher education. In other words, high academic performing American high school students drink less than their low performing peers, while American college students consume more alcohol than their non-college counterparts.

This sounds promising, but it’s important to note the drinking measures of this study are not on par with what many college students take part in — especially during spring break. The study found students with lower academic ability were much more likely to engage in hazardous drinking or binge drinking — the kind of drinking often seen on Walnut Place and around Miami, Cancun and Santa Barbara during spring break. So as far as this particular study goes, drinking can be related to academic capability in moderation.

As for the topic of pot, a 2015 study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America” may bring some disappointing news to those who enjoy April 20 for more than just the warm weather. This study followed sets of twins — where one twin smoked weed and the other did not — over a 6-year period and tested their IQ levels. The researchers reported that marijuana users had lower test scores than those twins who did not smoke pot.

As with the British study, this one also has a catch. Although the findings suggested marijuana use is linked to lower intelligence, there was no relationship found between amount or frequency of use and lower IQ scores. The drop in IQ scores over that six-year period could be due to outside causes.

Whether it’s on a beach with a hundred other sunburned college kids, or on a relaxing Tuesday night in your room, we know that alcohol and marijuana use affect our bodies. To what extent they affect the mind, however, is apparently still in great debate.

Believe what you will, but at least now there’s scientific study that may help justify spring break activities.

Renata Husted is a senior public health major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can email her at rfhusted@syr.edu.

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