High IQ, High Drug Use?

November 30th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

One study links higher IQs among young people with drug use later in life.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

If you’re the parent of an adolescent, you’ve probably assured yourself or your spouse at least once, “We’ve got a smart kid, he/she’s not interested in drugs.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, according to a new British study published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study found that “smart” kids – or, by the researchers’ definition, those who performed well on IQ tests between the ages of 5 and 10 – were more likely to use illicit drugs at age 16 and at age 30. Women with high IQs were more than twice as likely to have smoked marijuana or tried cocaine by age 30 than women with lower IQs. As for men with higher IQs, they were overall 57 percent more likely to have used two or more illegal drugs by the time they hit 30.

According to the Los Angeles Times, researchers from Cardiff University and University College London became interested in the question after other studies found that kids who scored especially well on intelligence tests were more likely than their peers to become alcoholics when they grew up. These researchers tracked about 8,000 people over three decades, recording their IQ scores at age 5 and again at age 10, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek story.

The study cited several reasons for the higher usage of such drugs. It could be that “illegal drugs are better at fulfilling a desire for novelty and stimulation,” as “high-IQ individuals have also been shown to score highly on tests of stimulation seeking and openness to experience.” Alternatively, researchers point to smarter student’s tendency to be teased; perhaps bullying is driving them to drugs as “an avoidant coping strategy.”

What do you think of the link between high IQ and drug use? How do you talk to your kids about substance abuse, no matter their IQ score?