23 Jun Brightest Boys More Likely to Subsequently Abuse Drugs
Most parents would love it if their child just happened to be the smartest kid in his or her class. A British study shows that having the smartest child may not be all it appears to be on the surface though.
According to the study, being the brightest doesn’t mean that kids will be safe from making some very unwise decisions, at least when it comes to drug and alcohol use. The long-range study found that having high childhood IQ scores may predict a higher risk for use of illicit drugs in later years. The correlation between high intelligence and subsequent drug use was published in the study report which appeared in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The longitudinal study, the British Cohort Study, provided information for the investigation into intelligence and drug use. This population-based study offered access to 8,000 participants so that researchers could take a long-view look at education levels, economic and social status and drug use over an extended period of years. In this case, researchers were interested in how those factors might influence drug use.
To begin with, children’s IQs were measured at age 5 and again at 10 using a validated scale. The study then depended on participant self-reporting to record emotional distress and drug use when participants reached age 16. Then, once again at age 30, the participants were asked to self-report but only on levels of drug use.
The study found that children with higher intelligence scores were more likely to be abusing drugs as they grew up. Clever boys were at the highest risk. Boys with high measured IQ scores at age 5 had a 50 percent greater chance of having used Ecstasy, stimulants or other illicit substances by the time they reached age 30 compared to boys with lower intelligence scores. Smart boys were also more at risk than smart girls, with the brightest boys using drugs two times more often compared to the most intelligent girls.
Still, young girls with high IQs were more at risk within their own gender sample. High IQ girls were two times more apt to have abused marijuana or cocaine by their teenage years or adulthood compared to girls who received lower intelligence scores at age 5. This pattern of high scores and more drug use was also observed with boys and girls who scored well on IQ tests at age 10.
Although this study demonstrated a clear link between childhood intelligence and later drug use, it did not answer the question of why the link exists. It was able to establish that social status, economic status and reported depression or anxiety in adolescence were not predictors of drug use, but failed to explain why intelligence should be so influential. Instead the researchers pointed to previous studies which offer various explanations.
Past studies have suggested that highly intelligent people, including children, are more interested in new and stimulating experiences compared to others. Novelty has great appeal for those with higher intelligence since they are quickly bored. Thus, really smart kids/people may be more prone to seeking out the thrill of trying something new and even taboo – like drugs.
Other studies have suggested that clever kids stand out from their peers at an early age. Children are swift to identify who is different within the group and so bright kids may feel socially isolated at a tender age. This social isolation could help to explain why really smart kids turn to drugs and other substances – they are soothing, coping and perhaps even hiding.
The bottom line is that the smartest children in the group are not guaranteed to make the best choices in the group. In fact, they appear to be at the highest risk for making some very poor choices.
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