With over 40 years of research to support their findings, a team of British scientists was slightly surprised to learn that people with higher IQs are much more prone to drug use. “It’s counterintuitive,” says lead author James White. “It’s not what we thought we would find.” And it’s not for lack of trying either.
The Cardiff University team consulted data from 8,000 people in the 1970 British Cohort Study, a group of human lab rats born in the same week in April 1970 and surveyed approximately once every five years about a broad host of topics. The results found that subjects that tested above average on IQ tests at age 5 were twice as likely to have done hard drugs within the past year, when asked at age 30. The smart kids weren’t just smoking pot, either; the numbers suggest that they prefer cocaine and ecstasy. White doesn’t know exactly what caused the difference but he has a good guess. “The likely mechanism is openness to experience,” he writes, “and, I think, it’s also this idea of having an educated view of risk as well.”
This is hardly the first time scientists have connected high IQ with drug use. Last year, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa tracked a trend similar to that in the Cardiff study and also found that people with higher IQs were more likely to use drugs. He even took it a step further and offered a hypothesis of why. Kanazawa says that smarter people are attracted to “evolutionary novelties” like chemically processed drugs:
People — scientists and civilians alike — often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes. The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals. Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.
Kanazawa’s theory would also support the latest findings. Because they require some basic, cocaine and ecstasy are evolutionarily novel in a way that marijuana is not. The good news for you smart people, however, is that even if you’re more likely to try drugs, you’re also more likely to kick the addiction faster.
PS: If you’re reading this and happen to have a high IQ, don’t freak out and do drugs. It’s really dangerous. Seriously, go watch Trainspotting or one of those scary new Darren Aronofsky commercials, if you’re not convinced.