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 (1,087 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
    • God

      Uh no, smart people realize what is going on in the world and use drugs to cope.

      Ignorance is bliss

      July 15, 2019 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
  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
    • God

      Dont worry you clearly do have low IQ if you believe that propaganda

      July 15, 2019 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
  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
    • Deerock

      I know exactly what you mean. The last IQ test I took was in high school and I scored 138. I too suffer from substance abuse. In my teens, my friends would smoke pot and I tried to like it but never did and still dont to this day. In those days, I was actually content with life, expecting good things to come since my life was ahead of me. By my early 20s, I started to suffer from depression and began drinking heavily and using cocaine all the time since i had a steady supplier. I went back to school in my late 20s thinking that it would set up something to look forward to. Of course it didnt. Life was just as mundane and trivial as before. I had abused opiates when available prior to those days (painkillers, heroin) and it was definitely my drug of choice. Living in Florida, i had no problem finding doctors to prescribe at the time. By my senior year, I was a full blown junkie. I would nod out in class, my grades went to hell, and i would not even go when in withdrawal. Naturally, I had to drop out. I am on methadone now and abuse amphetamines whenever i can. At 35, I want to kick, but every time i try the depression is unbearable. I was suicidal for a while, but I am seeing progress. Take care.

      July 31, 2016 at 22:29 | Report abuse |
  8. Schwifty

    Relate completely. My belief is smarter brains tend to be more alert and awake, aware of the state of our society. In the past this intelligence had an outlet and was respected while these days no one cares to know or see the truths. Few respect or admire or care to be wise. Now wisdom is different than intelligence I'm saddened that knowledge (mainly due to smart phones and the widely accessible Internet) isn't respected; basically everyone has knowledge at their finger tips. Wisdom on the other hand is more relatable to functions of the brain and one with a higher IQ tends to have more experiences than others with lower IQ. Now it's my belief that these experiences are felt on a deeper level in the brain of higher IQ, this when not engaging in these, at times, moments of epiphany we (I) get extremely bored! Take for example all the rockstars who died from drugs- this has nothing to do with intelligence but rather in my opinion boredom. Imagine performin for thousands doing something you love- ahhhhh the energy! Who wouldn't be bored doing the mundane nuisances of life- especially in this day and age. Basically my point is that I believe those of higher intelligence simply can't stand to be ordinary because that is boring!! Put me in a coffee shop with an awake person (these experiences don't need to be extreme) I'll be excited. The problem lies in these experiences are harder to come by and harder to share as most people today are drones. Also, nothing to do with this topic but my mind races-we are most likely living in a simulation! This makes me want to escape reality more than anything!!! End rant (while, are uou surprised) blown outta my mind.

    January 5, 2017 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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