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According to surprising new research in Europe, people with high intelligence quotients (IQs) are more likely to smoke marijuana and take other illegal drugs, compared to those who score lower on intelligence testing. And you thought stoners were dumb.
It shocked the researchers at the Center for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement. It even shocked many psychologists and physicians. But it’s true, according to new data obtained in a research study. Those with high IQs are more likely to use drugs. James White, lead researcher, maintains that it was not what they were expecting to find.
The research study was based on interviews of around 7,900 people in the U.K. who were born in early April of 1970. These participants IQs were measured at age 5, age 10, and then followed up at ages 16 and 30. The survey asked about symptoms of psychological distress and drug use.

At the age of thirty, the findings revealed that around 35 percent of men and around 16 percent of women had smoked marijuana within the last year. Over this same time period 9 percent of men and 4 percent of women said they had used cocaine. The previous year drug users scored higher when given an IQ test.

What’s more, this IQ effect was seen greater in women, with women scoring in the top third of the IQ range around age 5 and more than twice the likelihood to use marijuana or cocaine by the age of 30. The men with the highest IQs were around 50 percent more likely to use amphetamines and a whopping 65 percent more likely to use ecstasy when compared to those with lower scores. When the researchers controlled the study to take into account socioeconomic status and psychological distress, there was no change in the results.

You may find yourself asking, “Why does smarter kids turn to drug use?” According to White, the answer is that people with high IQs are more likely to have increased openness to experience and be more willing to seek out drug usage than those whose personalities show more of a closed desire for new adventure.

One researcher contributes this surprising information to the fact that in the 1980s there were many TV and radio messages used in an attempt to deter teens from drug use. They may have not reached the target population that included the smarter kids. The lead researcher, James White, maintains that the smarter individuals were more likely to not view occasional drug use as particularly harmful, whereas smoking was known to have ill health effects. In comparison, the drug users with less wealth and education were likely to have been exposed to the negative effects of drug addiction and disease.

There is plenty of available research that has found a connection between high IQ and a greater risk of alcohol abuse and dependence, too. This could be related to boredom, social isolation, or other things, the researchers convey, but there is a definite link between IQ and drug use that is independent of psychological distress. White believes that this rules out the argument that the only reason people use drugs is to self-medicate their psychological issues.

This research study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.