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The Link Between High IQ and Addiction

You’ve probably heard it said before that addicts and alcoholics are often “too smart for their own good.” And that this sort of thing is why we get into the predicaments we do when it comes to substances and chemicals. I have often said this before about myself. And there have even been studies on the link between high IQ and addiction.

Research: Link Between High IQ and Addiction

The National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive substances than less intelligent children.

Intelligence, according to the study, also includes certain factors: sex, religion, religiosity, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, social class at birth, mother’s education, and father’s education. What was found was that British children who are more intelligent before the age of 16 are also more likely to take psychoactive drugs at age 42 than less intelligent children.

The analysis of the study shows that the “very bright” individuals – those with IQs above 125 – are more likely to take psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals – those with IQs below 75.

Another long-term study conducted by British scientists revealed that intelligent people were also more likely to be alcoholic. People whose IQ was measured at “very bright” (IQ of 125 or greater) were not only more likely to experiment with alcohol but also were more likely to drink excessively and binge drink than people with lower IQs.

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, conducted in the U.S. measured childhood intelligence in junior high and high school and then seven years later, adult drug consumption is measured, looking at 5 different types of psychoactive drugs: marijuana, cocaine, LSD, crystal meth, and heroin.  The findings: “normal IQ” (90-110), “bright” (110-125), and “very bright” individuals consume more psychoactive substances than “very dull” or “dull” (75-90) individuals.

An Explanation of the Research: Link Between High IQ and Addiction

The working theory is that smart people’s brains seek out new and novel things and therefore are the first ones to experiment with new substances. The link between intelligence and substance abuse is that both alcohol and drugs are novel substances, in the evolutionary scheme of things. Humans have been consuming alcohol for only about 10,000 years, and the earliest recorded drug was only 5,000 years ago. So when something is novel, the more curious and most intelligent among us are more likely to want to try it out.


The crux of it: research does not predict that more intelligent people are more likely to engage in necessarily unhealthy behavior; intelligent people are more likely to engage in evolutionarily novel behavior.

And to some it all up in one word: curiosity. That’s right. We’re “curious like a cat” and therefore more likely to ‘experiment’ with new things, purely out of inquisitiveness. Which is funny, in a “not-funny-but-‘curious’ way because I have always said that I’m quite cat-like when it comes to my propensity to be curious about stuff. And, when it comes to substance use and abuse, it’s also quite fitting that the other oft-used expression is: “curiosity killed the cat.” So, with intelligence comes curiosity and with curiosity comes risk-taking that can lead to dire consequences.

In conclusion: Link Between High IQ and Addiction

Intelligent people don’t always do the smartest thing – only the evolutionarily novel thing, therefore intelligent people are much more likely to indulge in illicit substances such as marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. And, as intelligent people, we are more curious than the rest of the people out there and so we are also extra-likely to be substance abusers.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.



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