A Modern Myth: The “Fried Brains” Lie

I was a fairly heavy drug user, mostly pot and some psychedelics, for 15 years or so as a teenage boy and young man. But when I took an IQ test at age 29, I got the same score as when I was 14. You would think the equivalent of spraying Agent Orange in my brain for a decade would have fried a few cells here and there, but I guess not. I generally felt as smart as ever.

There were times I thought I was permafried. I took crack and had an empty head for three days. I did speed and vaporized by skull for a week. I drank 10 beers and did lots of coke one New Years and had the brain of a grazing animal for 10 days. I took acid and had memory issues for a month.

Every time I thought I had finally cooked the goose for good, the drug effects would wear off and my brain would wake up again, buzzing along fast as ever. I don’t think there are any permafried people. It’s an urban legend. Every so-called drug casualty I met was currently using. Even heavy Ecstasy use usually recovers in ~eight years. The brain is an adaptive organ. It’s as if it thinks for itself. Even if there are damaged cells or connections, the brain just cuts new passageways around and tries to circumvent the damage, like building a temporary dirt road around a landslided  highway.

My position is that there are no such thing as drug casualties, acid casualties, fried brains, permafried people or any of that. All of the casualty cases were currently using and they often using very heavily. Many of the times they were said to be permafried, they were just tripping on PCP or something, passed out with a beer in their hand and lying on the patio with pissed pants. What people called permafried were just the results of very heavy current use and often acute intoxication.

Some very  heavy users and drinkers are now in their 50’s and are affected. In every case I have seen, they are completely normal psychologically, but they do have some memory problems. I’ve never seen one of the legendary fried brains cases that haven’t used in forever but are still permanently out to lunch psychologically.

This is actually good news. Even if you are a heavy user, you will recover and  probably recover fully at least psychologically when you quit. Like with smoking, you are usually better off if you quit.

I’ve known many people who had taken LSD 100 or more times. 300 times was a pretty common number. All were psychologically healthy or even robustly or super-healthy. There’s probably a reason for that. The more disordered you are psychologically, the more likely it is that your trips are going to be quite unpleasant or even nightmarish. It takes a very cool and sane head to take acid trips in the triple numbers without having much issues. Some people simply “don’t have the head for it” and those who are robustly healthy in their heads are most able to weather heavy acid use.

Only one of these people was weird, and everyone brings him up every time I talk about acid. He’s supposedly a legendary acid casualty. He isn’t. He’s just weird. He’s got my exact IQ score (I saw his chart at the same time the counselor conspiratorially showed me mine and the problem with genius level IQ’s is that at and above that level, people start to get weird. And they get weirder and weirder at IQ rises higher and higher. At lot of people with IQ’s over 150 are  pretty damn weird.

Anyway it’s true. The guys is weird as fuck-all. But there’s harmless weird and scary weird and he’s just the harmless weird type. The two types are pretty simple to distinguish if you just spend a bit of time around them.

The problem with the acid casualty argument with this guy is that I knew him when he was 12 years old in seventh grade. And believe it or not, he was orders of magnitude weirder then and that was before he had sampled a single substance. If you want to play the cause and effect game, you have to conclude that all that acid made him much less weird. That’s a strange thing to conclude, but the Drug War crowd love to play cause and effect, so we can show them that it works both ways.

Personally I think the guy was just weird. He’s just one of those totally out to lunch genius types. all utterly harmless, you see wandering around university campuses with those permanently distracted weird blank stares that make you think they are insane until you talk to them and you realize you are talking to a remarkably sane person.

Like most weird, bizarre genius types, he improved a lot of his weird behaviors in adolescence but he still had way too many funny tics and verbal and gestural weirdisms. Once you talk to him, you realize he is quite sane. If you hang around with him, his behavior is remarkably normal. He’s rather inhibited, conservative, passive and in the background, but I would say your typical quasi-borderline modern woman is way flakier than he is. He never has meltdowns or even depressions or anxiety attacks. He’s not irritable at all. His moods are so calm he’s almost boring in that way.

Sometimes it’s even boring and frustrating to be around him and I even long for one of my typical Rollercoaster Quasi-Borderline Girlfriends like I usually end up with. Wild rides are scary, but they’re also damn fun. These psychobitches and crazy women drive me batty when I am with them, and then I miss them when their gone. What can I say?  The human condition is often paradoxical.

2 Comments

Filed under Alcohol, Cannabis, Coke, Depressants, Hallucinogens, Intelligence, Intoxicants, LSD, MDMA, Neuroscience, Psychology, Science, Speed, Stimulants

2 responses to “A Modern Myth: The “Fried Brains” Lie

  1. Jason Y

    I wouldn’t be so sure. What about Syd Barret of Pink Floyd? The best rule of thumb is – to not fry your brain. Also, note that I and Trash Jr. have noted that a young brain fried on drugs has a tough time recovering.

    • You realize that Syd Barrett has a mental disorder called schizophrenia, right? Considering that he has schizophrenia, where do the drugs and the fried brains come in? All of his strange, crazy behavior was caused by schizophrenia, not some LSD trips he used to take a while back.

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