Many presume that using drugs is a problem that primarily affects the poor and uneducated segments of society. While it’s true that these segments are impacted significantly by drug use, reputable research shows highly intelligent and educated individuals are actually more likely to use drugs. This is particularly true with modern psychoactive drugs like heroin and opiates. Given the emphasis on public drug education and the well-known detrimental effects of these drugs, it is difficult to comprehend that highly intelligent individuals would partake of them. The answer may lie in the fact that the more intelligent and evolved a society becomes, the more likely it is to experiment with new and novel behaviors such as drug use.
Studies Track IQ and Adult Drug Use
A 1958 National Child Development Study, performed in the United Kingdom, revealed that intelligent children were more likely to experiment with psychoactive drugs later in life as compared to less intelligent children. This was found to be true regardless of other environmental factors such as gender, religion, marital status, education level, income, mental health, social class and parent’s education. The research was based on 3,509 males and 3,204 females who were 11 years old. Each was tested cognitively and assigned
an IQ level based on their verbal and written responses. When each child reached the age of 42, they were given a questionnaire inquiring about their use of various drugs. Those who had tested at an IQ of 125 or higher were found to be exponentially more likely to have used drugs. One drawback to the study is that it did not evaluate the pattern or length of drug use, only the occurrence.
Contradicting Other Theories
The results of the study are surprising given that many other studies have shown a high correlation between intelligence and adopting positive health habits. These studies have repeatedly shown that more intelligent individuals have lower rates of smoking, get more physical activity and consume more fruits and vegetables. Why then, are they also more likely to use drugs?
Underlying Reasons Remain Elusive
The number of theories as to why intelligent individuals are more likely to use drugs are numerous. However, the actual cause remains elusive. One theory suggests a flaw in how we define intelligence. The modern definition of intelligence and IQ does not evaluate emotional intelligence or creativity. These include things like impulse control, perseverance, diligence, motivation, empathy and social skills. These are all important skills when it comes to handling the challenges of day-to-day life. In fact, there are several studies that link low emotional intelligence to higher drug use.
There also seems to be a culture element at work. IQ scores have traditionally varied widely among ethnic and cultural groups. Thus, it is unclear how much impact cultural influence has on IQ and thus on drug use.
The Conclusion about Intelligent People and Drugs
This data clearly proves that it is erroneous to believe that the more intelligent an individual is the better life choices they will make. Instead, it proves rather conclusively that higher intelligence leads to a higher likelihood of experimentation with more advanced drugs. Those with a high IQ have also been shown to score high on tests that measure stimulation seeking and openness to experience. While no specific studies have been done on IQ and stimulation seeking, numerous literature exists that suggest a strong correlation. The reason as to why this occurs however remains a mystery. This would seem to explain the current tendency for highly intelligent and successful individuals to abuse newer drugs like opiate-based painkillers, rather than turning to drugs that have been around for decades or centuries.