Addiction is a complex issue that has multiple influences, including intelligence. Many specialists have considered the connection between addiction and intelligence, trying to gauge how they are related. The results of various studies have been surprising: high intelligence has been more commonly linked to addiction, rather than low intelligence. But why?
Studies Seem To Confirm It
The troubling connection between intelligence and addiction has been highly studied and two recent studies seem to confirm the link between the two. The first of these studies was published in 2011 and found that children with high results in IQ tests in 1970 were subsequently more likely to abuse drugs later in life.
Specifically, the study found that men who had a mean IQ score of 109 (the highest in the study) were trying drugs much earlier and also used drugs more frequently than those who tested with an IQ of 100. Although the numbers were slightly different for women (regarding both IQ and drug use), they paralleled the results found in the males.
The second study, published in 2012, studied children born in 1958. What they found was very similar to the first study. Although the exact percentages weren’t released, the results of these studies are greatly troubling for people looking for a way to stem the tide of addiction.
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But Why Does This Correlation Exist?
Doctors, scientists, and those who study addiction have struggled to understand why this correlation exists. After all, why would intelligent people more likely to turn to drugs? Most people understand the risks associated with drugs and many argue that intelligent people would be more likely to avoid those risks. However, the evidence doesn’t bear out that logical conclusion.
Instead, a variety of hypotheses have been postulated to explain this seemingly paradoxical correlation. These ideas are hard to test, but give a good range of concerns that potentially influence addiction. These hypotheses argue that intelligent people who abuse drugs:
- Are easily bored – As a result, they look for new and novel things to push their mind. Drugs, being a dangerous and risky thing, entertain and even challenge their minds.
- Need new challenges – Success often comes easily to intelligent people and they may need to overcome new challenges regularly in order to feel a sense of personal progress. And what is more difficult than beating addiction?
- Try to fuel their creative fires – Intelligence and creativity are highly linked and the myth that drug use helps fuel creative genius has been spread for centuries. Unfortunately, this may lead intelligent people to try drugs.
While these concerns are among the most popular explanations, there are a variety of more in-depth and well-studied theories that may better explain why intelligent people suffer from such an unfortunately high rate of addiction.
Intelligence May Also Be Linked To Emotional Instability
One of the most commonly suggested links between drug addiction and intelligence is the way that the latter influences emotional instability. A study called “The Correlation between Emotional Intelligence and Unstable Personality in Substance Abusers” stated that “…intelligence was significantly correlated with unstable personality in substance abusers.”
This link suggests that people with high intelligence suffer from a greater preponderance of emotional and mental health concerns. These problems could influence drug use and even drive someone to develop an addiction. But why are intelligence and emotional instability connected?
There are a few possible reasons. Many intelligent people suffer from a racing mind. Their thoughts don’t slow down and they have a hard time processing or structuring them. As a result, they may experience bouts of depression, frustration, and even anger that leads to emotional instability.
Another suggestion is that intelligent people suffer from high levels of depression and despair. Often, they see view the world as hostile, and since most intelligent people also suffer from high levels of sensitivity, they turn to drugs or alcohol to numb that despair. These suggestions are not meant as diagnoses but as a look into how intelligence may force a person into a lifestyle of addiction.
Maturity And Intelligence Are Two Different Things
People often equivocate intelligence and maturity, but these are two wildly different aspects of a person’s personality. Intelligence is difficult to understand, but it can be understood best as a person’s ability to cognitively understand the world around them and to process information. An intelligent person has little difficulty innately understanding a situation and solving problems.
Maturity is similar to intelligence but applied to emotions. Simply put, a person with a high level of maturity properly processes emotional and social situations. They innately understand complex social and emotional situations and develop positive methods to deal with difficult moments. Having high intelligence doesn’t necessarily make a person more mature.
As a result, a highly intelligent person may possess a low level of maturity. And people with low levels of maturity are more likely to abuse drugs. Sometimes, they are trying to maintain the “good old days” of high school parties. More commonly, they lack the emotional and social strength to handle trauma and turn to drugs as a form of self-treatment.
Don’t Be Afraid To Regain A Life Of Sobriety
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, please don’t let it take over your life. Instead, make sure to contact us at Vertava Health. We can help set you out on the path to personal and professional recovery.