60-Second Science

High-IQ Kids Later Try Drugs More

A British study found significantly higher drug experimentation among people who performed well on IQ tests as kids. Sophie Bushwick reports

Having a high IQ may have its drawbacks: a new study finds that highly intelligent children are more likely to try illegal drugs in their teenage and adult years. The work is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. [James White and G. David Batty, "Intelligence across childhood in relation to illegal drug use in adulthood: 1970 British Cohort Study"]

An ongoing study that started in 1970 gathered data from 8,000 people, including their IQ test scores at ages five and 10. Participants later reported their history of illicit drug use at age 16, and then again at age 30.

Men with high childhood IQs were 50 percent more likely to use drugs than their low-scoring counterparts. And women with high scores were more than twice as likely to have tried controlled substances.

What draws children with high IQs to eventually try drugs? The study’s authors point out that drugs could serve as a coping mechanism for intelligent children who stand out from their classmates and become targets for teasing. In addition, intelligent people tend to pursue new, stimulating experiences to stave off boredom. Meaning that an IQ being high could be a gateway to getting high.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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