High childhood IQ linked to Illegal drug use in later life

A long term study has made the assertion that children who display higher than average IQ's are more likely to experiment with drugs. The reasons why this could be true are not fully understood and more research is required.A new study reveals that children who have an above average IQ are more likely to dabble with illegal drugs when they are in their 30s. The study which took place at the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer) in the United Kingdom and was led by James White, Ph.D. The study looked closely at data from around 8,000 individual from the 1970s British Cohort Study which looked at lifetime drug usage and examined socioeconomic factors as well as education.


Individuals had their IQ assessed at both 5 and 10 years of age and data was generated by reports from the individuals themselves on any psychological stress or drug usage they had experienced at the age of 16 and then again at the age of 30. At 16 they were to report any experiences they had encountered with cannabis and cocaine and at 30 they were to report any encounters they had experienced with ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis.

The results showed that by the age of 30 one in three men and one in six women had used cannabis and that 8.6 percent of men and 3.6 percent of women had encountered cocaine in the 12 months preceding their 16th birthday. Patterns for other substances appeared similar for other drugs with men appearing to be twice as likely as women to get involved with drugs.

Men who had shown high IQs at the age of 5 were almost twice as likely to have used illicit drugs in later life compared to those who had lower IQ scores. The link was much stronger with women who appeared to be more than twice as likely to have used drugs as those females who gave a low IQ score as children.

Professor White of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine said of the findings: “Although most studies suggest that higher child or adolescent IQ prompts the adoption of a healthy lifestyle as an adult, other studies have linked higher childhood IQ scores to excess alcohol intake and alcohol dependency in adulthood, although it is not yet clear exactly why there should be a link between high IQ and illicit drug use, previous research has shown that people with a high IQ are more open to new experiences and keen on novelty and stimulation. There is a clear need for future epidemiological and experimental studies to explore these and other pathways.”

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