Children with high IQ scores at age 5 may be significantly more likely to use illegal drugs in adolescence and adulthood, according to a recent study published online in Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Recent reports have linked high childhood IQ scores with excess alcohol intake and alcohol dependency in adult life, so the investigators sought to explore possible associations with illegal drug use.

The researchers analyzed data from nearly 8,000 participants with IQ scores assessed at the age of 5 and 10 from a British Cohort Study, which measured the use of drugs and socioeconomic factors to age 30. Higher IQ scores at age 5 were associated with an increased use of cannabis by age 16 in both sexes, and an increased use of cannabis and cocaine in women and amphetamine and ecstasy use in men by age 30.

Furthermore, the association remained strong even after adjusting for psychological distress during adolescence and life-course socioeconomic position.

The study authors observed that individuals with high IQs tend to score well on tests of stimulation-seeking and openness to experiences, and alcohol and illegal drugs may fulfill desires for novelty and stimulation. They also note that drug use may be used to ward off boredom or cope with peer stigmatization.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

  • Do you believe it’s a common misconception that a high IQ is associated with healthy behaviors?
  • Have you frequently observed illegal drug use in highly intelligent patients?