Smart Kids, Bad Choices?

In recent news, a British study has made a splash with the findings that children with high IQs are more likely to use drugs as teenagers and adults. Data used was from a 1970 British Cohort Study that followed nearly 8,000 men and women and children with high IQs scores at either 5 or 10 years of age showed an increased chance of illicit drug use at age 16 and age 30. The link between intelligence and drug use was independent of other factors such as mental health, socioeconomic status, or social class. While explanations are a little hazy, intelligent people are thought to be more open to new experiences and thus more apt to try drugs. Other reasoning has brought up using drugs due to boredom or the wish to cope with feeling different from one’s peers.

This is certainly an extremely interesting claim, but do we buy it? After writing my last essay on addiction, I read many studies on specific brain structures and neurotransmitters, which make me think this finding is a little too simple. Openness to experience is one of the Big Five personality dimensions so essentially reasoning is connecting the personality of intelligent people to using drugs, which I’m not sure how I feel about. Also I was a little surprised that other factors weren’t seen to play a bigger role in the risk of using drugs.


4 thoughts on “Smart Kids, Bad Choices?

  1. Jess, this is a really interesting post, but I’m not sure if I buy it. Like you said, seems a little too simple. However, the boredom argument does make sense.


  2. I buy it. Even if it’s simple it’s a cool trend to see and it goes against popular thought. Just because certain kids know that things are bad from them it doesn’t stop them from doing things and taking risks. I don’t see that IQ and risk are related. I do wonder, however, if this trend only goes on for so long and then after a certain IQ the probability of doing drugs declines again. I feel like it’s possible that people with very high IQs might not take these same risks…


  3. I have to agree with Taylor that I’m not completely sold. Couldn’t there be a third variable that’s behind all this? It seems to simple. Just an example, maybe higher SES kids have more access (i.e. funds) to drugs, and SES is correlated with iq scores.


  4. Though I’m not completely “sold” on this as the only reason for drug use, I certainly think those with higher IQ’s are have a certain set of risk factors that could make them prone to drug use. Moreover, people with high IQ’s throughout history have used drugs and even famous intelligent fictional characters like Sherlocke Holmes were depicted as drug addicts. Thomas Jefferson smoked hemp (look it up in his diary), Sigmeun Freud used enough cocaine “to kill a small horse,” Franz Liszt drank and used drugs heavily, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, the list goes on and on. One reason for this may be the prevalence of neuropsychiatric disorders like bipolar in people with high IQ’s. Perhaps this has always been a form of self-medication. Perhaps those with high IQ’s find it easier to trivialize life.


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