Women especially are likely to use illegal drugs when they exhibit a high aptitude for learning.
Children who are found to have high IQs in early childhood are more likely to use illegal drugs when they get older.
This is especially true for women, who are more than twice as likely to use drugs like marijuana and cocaine as adults when they have a higher-than-average IQ.
Men with higher IQs are 50 percent more likely to use amphetamines and ecstasy as adults.
These new findings come from a U.K. study of nearly 8,000 people born in 1970. Researchers measured each test subject’s IQ at ages 5 and 10 and asked a series of questions about psychological problems and drug use at ages 16 and 30. Their findings were consistent even when other factors such as social and economic status were taken into account.
Parents, teachers and school administrators should be aware that high academic achievement in school does not rule out the possibility that a teenager is using drugs. This study shows that honor role students may be more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol than their more average peers.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. In a related press release, author James White stated that the findings were “counterintuitive” and unexpected. Intelligent people who were born in the 1970s are more educated than previous generations about good health. They tend to avoid cigarettes, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. White and his team now theorize that when it comes to illegal drugs, this group of people is more likely to ignore the health risks because they are open to experimentation and new experiences.
A link may also exist between the boredom and loneliness that are often associated with gifted children and their use of drugs as teenagers and adults. In this case, drugs may be used by smarter people as a form of self-medication for psychological distress. Drugs also may be used as a way to fit in with a peer group, providing a coping mechanism for social isolation.
An important piece of data that is missing from the study is a measure of the rate of drug addiction among people with higher intelligence. According to White, the study did not measure the frequency of drug use among participants. The study did mention other recent studies that link high IQ test scores in childhood with alcohol abuse and dependence in adult life, so the chances are good that people with higher IQs who use drugs also face problems with dependence and addiction.
According to James White, the study does not draw any conclusions about cause and effect for drug use among people with higher IQs. More study will be needed in the future to determine the best ways to help intelligent children avoid the use of illicit drugs when they get older.