High IQ linked to drug use
November 14th, 2011
06:30 PM ET

High IQ linked to drug use

The "Just Say No" generation was often told by parents and teachers that intelligent people didn't use drugs.   Turns out, the adults may have been wrong.

A new British study finds children with high IQs are more likely to use drugs as adults than people who score low on IQ tests as children.  The data come from the 1970 British Cohort Study, which has been following thousands of people over decades.  The kids' IQs were tested at the ages of 5, 10 and 16.  The study also asked about drug use and looked at education and other socioeconomic factors.  Then when participants turned 30, they were asked whether they had used drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin in the past year.

Researchers discovered men with high childhood IQs were up to two times more likely to use illegal drugs than their lower-scoring counterparts.  Girls with high IQs were up to three times more likely to use drugs as adults.  A high IQ is defined as a score between 107 and 158.  An average IQ is 100. The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The lead researcher says he isn't surprised by the findings.  "Previous research found for the most part people with high IQs lead a healthy life, but that they are more likely to drink to excess as adults," says James White a psychologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.

It's not clear why people with high childhood IQs are more likely to use illegal drugs.  "We suspect they may be more open to new experiences and are more sensation seeking," says White.  In the paper, White and his co-author also mention other studies that find high IQ kids may use drugs because they are bored or to cope with being different.

That seems to ring true for one of my childhood classmates. Tracey Helton Mitchell was one of the smartest kids in my middle school. But, by the time she was in her early 20's, Tracey was a heroin addict. I found out while flipping channels one sleepless night and stumbled upon the documentary "Black Tar Heroin."

"I was confident in my abilities but there was a dissonance," says Tracey, with whom I recently reconnected.  "No matter what I did, what I said, where I went, I was never comfortable with the shell I carried called myself."

soundoff (1,045 Responses)
  1. V.

    so obvious – smart people tend to make more money, and drugs cost a lot of money, smart people are more sure about themselves and their ability 'not to become addicts and die' so will be more likely to try, smart people have depression more often than average people and depression is linked with drugs and substance abuse, smart people are more likely to work in art or other non physical work thus have more leisure time, perhaps more boredom and more susceptible to substance abuse in general, than those who work hard physical work, perhaps even get their 'high' from their hard work out, and return home exhausted to just sleep

    June 3, 2014 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. berzTon

    Major thankies for the article.Really thank you! Want more. ozza

    October 12, 2014 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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  4. James

    I would rather be dumb than use drugs! Many drugs are often laced, can cause addiction if you have certain genes, and just waste money down the drain. Let me have the lowest IQ in the world and I will still never use drugs.

    April 28, 2015 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gene

    I have a very above average IQ and my input is that those (not all) ppl with higher IQ have more trouble fitting in whether your gift intimidates or simply rubs most the wrong so to speak. Pursuing "normalcy" can and will expose that person down the road.
    Basically for many the brain simply does not shut up and I'm not referring to outside stress but many many things at once and this is a recipe to self medicate. I'm only speaking for myself and who I've known in a similar situation. One even rationalizes on occasion "kill more brain cells so I can be as happy and careless of the feeble minded."
    Completely obsurd to think but its the best way I can break it down.

    August 8, 2015 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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  7. californiacobra

    The very last sentence of this article hits home for me. I am not a genius, but do have a higher than average IQ. I didn't even try smoking marijuana until I was about 20 or 21, which later progressed to a prescription pill habit that I still struggle with to this day and I am now almost 31. I find myself uncomfortable with my whole self, not just mind and not just body, but everything as a whole. I know I am a very deep thinker and there are many times I have ideas, thoughts, hypotheses, and theories about the world, the meaning of life, and how it all works together, but I am too afraid to voice 99% of those thoughts due to the fear of sounding like some crazy conspiracy theorist. Also, I experience much deeper thoughts with the use of certain "drugs." The biggest reason I know that I use is because I am not comfortable in the body I have even though I am thin and have often been called beautiful. I was overweight for most of my life and at my worst I was 218 pounds for a 5'8" body. About 5 or 6 years ago I lost a little over 70 pounds and now maintain a weight between 145 and 155, but it's still not a great body. I don't look like the girls that the media praises for their thinness and beauty. If we saw more REAL women without all this photoshopping in the media, I know I would feel better about myself, but Hollywood wants us to believe we are not as amazing as these pea-brained actors/actresses. I think many of my ideas and theories are pretty revolutionary, but I'm too afraid to speak up for fear of sounding like some crazy bum on the street. Why can't intelligence be valued above appearance? This world has just come to a sad state of affairs since appearance now trumps intelligence when it comes to what we are told is "sexy."

    November 15, 2015 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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