Parents beware! If you have a brainy kid, especially a girl, you better watch her carefully. According to a new research study, children with higher IQs are more likely to use illegal drugs when they grow up.
The new study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, examined over 8,000 people and followed them over three decades. They found that people with higher IQs when they were 5 and 10 years old were more likely to experiment with illicit drugs (such as marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine) at age 16 and 30.
The IQ-to-drug use correlation was even stronger in women. Girls who were in the top third of the IQ range at age 5 were two times as likely to abuse illicit drugs (marijuana and cocaine, specifically) by age 30. Men with high IQs were 46 percent more likely to have abused amphetamines (speed), and 65 percent of the men with higher IQs were more likely to have used ecstasy, compared to people with lower IQs.
Even when the researchers controlled for socioeconomic factors, psychological stress, and other factors that could lead to drug use, the results were the same.
The results of this study may shock you, but they’re not too surprising when you consider previous research. Past studies have indicated that higher IQ individuals live an overall healthy life, but they’re more likely to drink in excess. (Alcoholics aren’t just the stereotypical drunken homeless person on the side of the street. Many adults are “functioning alcoholics” – people who are high functioning, able to keep a job, and have a hidden alcoholic life behind closed doors.)
But, why the higher rate of drug use in people with higher IQs? According to the researchers, the answer is simple. Higher IQ individuals tend to score highly on tests of stimulation-seeking and an openness to experience. Illegal drugs are better at fulfilling both of these desires.
Another reason that intelligent kids may end up becoming drug users – smarter kids tend to be picked on. Their drug use may be an avoidant coping strategy, says the researchers. Boredom may also play a role.
Whatever the reason for smarter kids deciding to use illegal drugs, the message is clear. If you’re a parent, don’t let your child’s good academic performance mislead you into thinking they’re not experimenting with drugs on the side. Drugs are so commonplace in adolescent circles, so it’s naive for any parent to think that your “good, smart” kid isn’t curious about drugs. And the more curious the child, the more apt they’re going to be to possibly experiment.
This study does not prove a “cause and effect” relationship between higher IQ and drug use. More research needs to be done, but it does urge parents to keep their eyes open to any unusual patterns of behavior they may notice in their teenagers.
News story. Last updated. November 17, 2011.