Smarter Kids Are Smart Enough to Avoid Alcohol and Drugs, Right?

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Maybe not. The latest study of twins shows that early bloomers may become heavier drinkers who start chugging earlier in life.

The research is part of an emerging but counterintuitive body of work that suggests kids who develop language and intellectual skills earlier are more likely to drink and take other drugs than their less intelligent peers. In 2011, for example, British researchers found that women who were in the top third of the IQ range when tested in elementary school were more than twice as likely as those scoring in the bottom third to have used marijuana or cocaine by age 30; for men, the top-ranked boys were almost 50% more likely to have taken amphetamine and 65% more likely to have used ecstasy (MDMA) by adulthood.

For decades, scientists had documented that those with lower IQ and less education were more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, probably because lower levels of education and lower IQ are associated with the damaging effects of poverty and because having less intelligence offers fewer mental resources to allow users to moderate and avoid problems.

The latest data, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, doesn’t contradict those findings. Drug use is not the same as drug addiction — and a great deal of earlier research shows that higher intelligence is a protective factor against alcoholism and addictions, even though smarter people are more likely to drink or try drugs.

The researchers followed 3,000 healthy identical or fraternal twins in Finland, focusing on the group who had significant differences in verbal development as children and who also turned out to have varied drinking behavior as adults. The twin who spoke her first words earlier or began reading earlier was nearly twice as likely as her co-twin to be drinking more at age 18. And twins who spoke first were four times as likely to get drunk once a month or more often than their later-speaking twins, who either hadn’t been drunk at all or did so less than once a month. Overwhelmingly, this drinking was not out of control and did not qualify them for a diagnosis of having an alcohol disorder.

“Social drinking in many countries and nonproblematic drinking is more frequent and common among people with higher education,” says Antti Latvala, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland and lead author of the study. Why? What protects them from sliding into addiction?

Intelligence can serve as a vehicle for moderation when it comes to alcohol or drug use — the more educated people are, the more they internalize and appreciate the dangers and risks of overindulging. The higher education that’s correlated with greater intellect also puts more at stake for those who indulge in alcohol or drug abuse.

Intelligence can also spur more curiosity and openness to new experiences. And that includes experimenting with alcohol and drugs. “People have this impression that intelligence is somehow related to being introverted and bookwormish,” says Latvala. “But if you look at these large studies, they definitely find this association with sensation-seeking and seeking different kinds of experiences. [They’re] trying to learn new things. It could be related to the nature of intelligence.” Such experimentation doesn’t always lead to addiction or problematic behavior because this type of exposure often involves a few experiences before the person moves on to the next novelty.

(MORE: Why Kids With High IQs Are More Likely to Take Drugs)

Verbal intelligence may also often allow kids to better negotiate the social world, and since most social teenagers in Western societies drink, being social inevitably exposes them to alcohol. The study found that the more verbally skilled twins did have more friends who drank than their co-twins, so the connection might be reinforced culturally as well.

Although the study did not find that the early exposure to alcohol and drugs made the smarter twins more vulnerable to addiction, these twins weren’t entirely safe from the harms — including overdoses, drunk driving, sexual assaults and injuries — that can result from drinking or abusing drugs. Being smart doesn’t mean you are immune from drug-related dangers.

46 comments
magnatum
magnatum

For example in Switzerland many young people have a drug and/or alcohol problem. Usually on weekends there is a significant increase of intoxicated young people in hospitals. Many parents hear from the doctor for the first time that apparently their kids have a drug problem. Therefore it is very common there that more and more parents do drug testing with their children (see here http://www.sicher-testen.ch/deutsch/drogentest-drogenschnelltest.html ). A friend did also a urine test with his daughter and found out, that she regularly consumed drugs.

thetalkingmule
thetalkingmule

This implies the old logic that the only gateway to drug and alcohol abuse is through poor decision making.  Repeated and severe early childhood trauma and stress are the clearest precursors to drug and alcohol abuse.  What does IQ have to do with the likelihood of early childhood trauma?

JohnMattson
JohnMattson

It doesn't matter if they are intelligent or not, alcohol and drug abusers are doing so to ignore reality, to do something harmful to themselves that in no way is "smart" at any age, but in particular when the brain and body have not yet matured and are still in formative  developmental stages, Substance abuse makes people dumber, regardless of the level of "intelligence" they start at... Common sense and self respect are better marks of emotional intelligence and social competence than any number of academic tests that exists today... ingesting something that makes one's brain and body not function is dumb no matter what the IQ level... 

Sceptic665
Sceptic665

Kid who read earlier than other kid = smart adult according to this author's line of reasoning. Writers will go to great lengths to distort evidence to make a buck.

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

Smart Kids More Likely to Drink: There's a big difference between "smart" and "wise".

CindyAnneFehrenbachRiachi
CindyAnneFehrenbachRiachi

There is a subset of late talking, very high IQ children that this study would not have measured. These children appreciatively do not speak until 3 years or later but have genius level IQ ranges(think Einstein as an example).

GaysWithFaith
GaysWithFaith

Smart kids make propaganda, they don't buy it.  Reefer madness was propaganda, so when smart kids watch reefer madness while simultaneously consuming marijuana they can tell that someone is exaggerating or outright lying.  So how then can you trust any propaganda if you can recognize the lies?  Government propaganda thus becomes an advertisement, "hey smart kids, come research these chemical compounds and put them in your body and see how it makes you feel."  Not only that but when you really research drugs and read some books or watch some documentaries, you realize they were all developed by companies that still exist, our military, and our universities.  Why are people so interested in making new crap to put in my body to make me feel this thing or that thing?  Why can coca cola keep a recipe secret but everyone in the world knows how to make the drugs we developed here?  I'm just sayin'.

ClarkMagnuson
ClarkMagnuson

A teacher tells me that the biggest problem for education is competing for attention with electronic media.

We went from man's first flight to walking on the moon in 66 years.

We went from kids going to the library to kids going to wikipedia even faster.

The problem is not drugs and alcohol, but the spread of liberalism.

KingSean
KingSean

What about the fact that the schools have to teach to the dumbest kids and thereby the smarter ones get bored and start acting out and doing drugs? We are unfortunately wasting the minds of the smarter kids. We really need to get back to tracking.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Yet again, we witness TIME Magazine prematurely hype the findings of a newly-published study.  Just a few questions:

1) How exactly do 3000 Finnish twins qualify as a representative sampling of the population at-large?  What about ordinary, non-twin siblings?  What about a cross-comparison of non-related individuals across the board?  What above surveying other youths in a similar manner across other countries as well?

2) How about this for anti-climactic writing: 

"For decades, scientists had documented that those with lower IQ and less education were more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, probably because lower levels of education and lower IQ are associated with the damaging effects of poverty and because having less intelligence offers fewer mental resources to allow users to moderate and avoid problems."

Yet, "The latest data, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, doesn’t contradict those findings."  Well, if that's not a conversation non-starter, than I don't know what is!

3) The rest of the article deals with summarizing various well-known conjectures and theories on intelligence, and how it relates to learning. 

In other words, the study in this article will not affect any of us here in America.  The subjects of that study were exclusively Finnish fraternal twins, and will perhaps shed light on that specific sub-group of individuals.  TIME Magazine should have been wiser to discern that, and not over-hyped the study to be something it's clearly not.

megalon98133
megalon98133

Intelligent youngsters are also more likely for the obvious following reasons -

* Being bullied and picked on all the time by the jocks and sorostitutes
* Like #1, as an escape since the real world makes little actual sense and is pretty disappointing
* As an attempt to expand one's mind - a craving for more intelligence
* stress relief

MickeyCashen
MickeyCashen

I think intelligent young adults are going to try more things because they are exposed to more aspects of life.  And I also think they're more responsible about it.

When I was in college, most people in my circle did marijuana and drank to excess.  But that was usually only on Friday or Saturday night.  During the week we had both school work and often part-time jobs.  We knew the characters staggering around the student union during the week weren't going to be going to college for very long.  When a pregnant teen was smoking dope at a party I attended it was grabbed away from her by someone and we all read her the riot act.  The one time I drove home drunk from a college event (I commuted to college), I told my parents the next morning and told them that if it ever happened again I'd sleep on someone's floor or in the car and call them if I wasn't going to make it home that night.

When I went to grad school and lived on campus at IIT in Chicago in the mid-70's, in Winter the members of the dorms used the space between the windows and their screens to refrigerate their alcohol.  Almost everyone had a few cans of beer and soda there.  No one from the college ever bothered about it because it was never a problem - except for some rowdy weekends.

JoshMorris
JoshMorris

Intelligence is separate from introversion/extroversion, anyone can figure that out. Extroverted people are probably also more likely to use alcohol frequently in social situations.

herbalmagick
herbalmagick

Intelligent young people don't blindly accept what they're told.  They do independent research to determine the truth of things.  This takes away power from the anti-drug, anti-alcohol propagandists and leads to careful experimentation.

Sceptic665
Sceptic665

It is an open debate in neuroscience as to how strongly elementary school standardized test/IQ scores and early language/intellectual ability correlates with intelligence in adult or even late adolescent life. This article is predicated on the erroneous assumption that children who have higher IQ scores and earlier language development in elementary school are "smarter" as adults and teenagers. This generalization is not supported by a majority of the latest mainstream scientific research. Maia, can you please link to some mainstream scientific research which shows that your assumptions are valid?

Don'teventhinkaboutit
Don'teventhinkaboutit

Latest news: "People have long observed that drunk people think others are more attractive but ours is the first study to find that drinking makes people think they are more attractive themselves," Prof Bushman told the BBC.

mrneutron
mrneutron

They take drugs to get away from too much thinking.  When you can't turn off the thoughts in your head, it starts to hurt. He who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

JeffHB
JeffHB

It probably has a great deal to do with the inane argument made against weed. At a certain age, every intelligent child realizes that you would have to be an idiot to believe the argument against marijuana usage routinely preached to these kids in drug awareness programs. Once the idiocy of the anti-drug zealots is exposed, it is a very small step to believe that all of the warnings about the dangers of other drugs is equally stupid -- even though other drugs actually are dangerous.

Legalize marijuana and the drug problem will subside. 

The problem with alcohol is compounded by the fact that state laws criminalize the consumption of alcohol by minors. As a result, parents are no longer allowed to teach their children about moderate consumption of alcohol. To kids, alcohol is like any other illicit drug -- a vehicle for "getting wasted". It did not used to be that way. In "the old days" before MADD [in the ultimate expression of collective "maddness"] attempted to legislate away alcohol consumption, we had a culture where deaths from alcohol overdose was rare. But our lawmakers listened to these traumatized if well meaning women and dutifully made responsible parenting about moderation in the use of intoxicants impossible.

We don't need more addiction counselors. We just need more intelligent adults to speak out about the idiocy of our national substance abuse policies. We need fewer laws, fewer prisons and prison guards, fewer busybodies trying to regulate behavior, less "DARE" classes, fewer studies that prove the obvious, and more common sense.

PacificSage
PacificSage

All the dumb student from my high school are still dumb. Only the ones with high IQ's have been able to land high paying jobs, and maintain a nice affluent life in this economic meltdown that will never go away.

DilKurdi
DilKurdi

You seem to suggest something and back that up suing numbers/science;however,since we all know getting drunk and taking drugs is surely a bad thing;it is therefore,the culture that values these people is WRONG!


Maybe there need to be a cultural change,so those who take drugs and get drunk are not at the top but at the botton;where they deserve to be.

CarolineNees
CarolineNees

Wonder if the folks here commenting on the evil of drugs, feel the same way about pharmaceuticals? Just keep in mind that, drugs are drugs, no matter where they come from and no matter the legality. If you believe that there is positive value derived from pharmaceuticals, how can you say all drugs are bad? Medications are derived from natural substances, such as any narcotic for instance, unless of course, you believe they fell from the sky or just mysteriously appeared out of nowhere.

CarolineNees
CarolineNees

Having a high IQ doesn't necessarily mean smarter. There is book-smarts and then there is commonsense. But, yeah, smarter people are more aware of the stupidity going on around them and that's probably what drives people to do drugs and drink. Hey, considering some of the nonsense going on in the world, you had better be stoned or drunk.

klattalexis
klattalexis

These so-called 'smart kids' , also have 'high risk-taking' behaviour syndrome, that's all, which negates their smarts, making them Not so smart after all!.

wangjinnan.1992
wangjinnan.1992

in china drinking already cause triffic affair .so i think drink is not good

doovinator
doovinator

smart kids figure things out for themselves.

PhillyCannabis
PhillyCannabis

I was smart enough to stay away from drugs. I saw what my friends were doing and didn't want to go down that road. Sure enough my friends in high school and college that got mixed up with drugs had problems down the road.

darkfrogstudios
darkfrogstudios

If the government bans coca-cola and it cost several hundred dollars per litre on the black market; people would learn how to make their own - new recipe would remain secret for long. Most (illegal class) drugs exist in nature - companies (and yes, governments) have tinkered with the natural ingredients to make them more potent or to synthesize the active agents. As with all things - nothing is inherently good or bad, but rather how it is used.

hypnotoad72
hypnotoad72

@megalon98133 - the "real world" is what we make of it as a society.  Especially as the media and people gripe more and more about things that are not caused by mother nature but by fellow humans.

ssgret
ssgret

@herbalmagick I agree emphatically!  All children push the envelope and disregard what adults tell them, but I believe it also has to do with social norms.  "Smart" kids as they put it, would be curious and test their limits with drugs and alcohol, but the "popular" kids would test societies laws and would be more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.  I think all children are intelligent, it is just the decisions that they make that lead them down the path to responsibility.  Due to the addictive nature of some people is what may end up causing their addiction to other things.

JoeJeffrey
JoeJeffrey

@Sceptic665 Not nearly as open as you say.  There's quite a strong correlation.  Yes, it can change, but if nothing interferes, what you've got in elementary school is what ou're going to have for the rest of your life.  And it's not a neuroscience debate; it's a psychology/testing debate. A number of things can interfere with intellectual ability, thus producing lower scores on tests, and you can perhaps improve things a little bit with various kinds of exercises, but those are nibbling at the edges. It's a good rule of thumb that smart kids become smart adults, unless something major gets in the way.

JoshMorris
JoshMorris

@Sceptic665 

That's true. IQ does not really seem to stabilize until after the brain matures in the mid 20s.

hypnotoad72
hypnotoad72

@PacificSage -

Now now, there's no need to sound optimistic...  see my response to megalon98133 above for more info...

JoeJeffrey
JoeJeffrey

@DilKurdiBut we DON'T all know getting drunk and taking drug is a bad thing.  In fact, every bit of evidence shows that it depends on 1) How often, 2) What drugs, and 3) (Most important by far): does it prevent you from living a life of productivity and satisfaction?  (And BTW -- I never do either one. But just because I don't like them. Not because they're "bad".)

JoeJeffrey
JoeJeffrey

@DilKurdi But we DON'T all know getting drunk and taking drug is a bad thing.  In fact, every bit of evidence shows that it depends on 1) How often, 2) What drugs, and 3) (Most important by far): does it prevent you from living a life of productivity and satisfaction?  

JoshMorris
JoshMorris

Maybe you need your head beaten in for being an intolerant ass. Most people that use drugs and alcohol are well functioning, you only hear about the screw ups.

herbalmagick
herbalmagick

@DilKurdi Moralists have been telling us forever that intoxication is evil.  I don't know where they came up with that idea.  Jesus didn't turn water into wine so the wedding guests could admire the color.  Celebratory intoxication has been part of our culture at least since the ancient Greeks.  Every culture in the world that has access to intoxicating substances uses them in varying ways.  No one thinks it's a great idea to get roaring drunk and beat up your wife.  Most people, especially intelligent people, learns to use intoxicants in socially acceptable ways that encourage good relationships.

PacificSage
PacificSage

@DilKurdi  

I sure employers, who simply want skilled, smart employees will agree with you. LOL

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@CarolineNees By your logic, then, more high IQ people would be drunks and stoners.  Except that that's not the case.  As this article (and many others) note, a high IQ makes you notably LESS likely to be a heavy/long-term drinker or drug user. 

Have you ever considered that smart kids might not be drinking to AVOID the world, and might instead try alcohol or drugs because those are PART OF the world?  That they're smart enough to be curious -- and yet, also smart enough to stop before the activity gets to be a long-term, potentially-dangerous habit?

Because that's how I read this article.

hypnotoad72
hypnotoad72

@CarolineNees -

That is very true.  Common sense is a different skill altogether.  As is planning.  A person can have one trait and not the other.

It is unfortunate our world is the way it is today.  But who engineered the various countries in the world?  Smart people?  Greedy people?  Manipulative people with silver, forked tongues that people feel more drawn to by default?  A combination of those?  Or something else entirely?

herbalmagick
herbalmagick

@CarolineNees And there are those of us who are very much at peace with the way the world is and occasionally take a drug or a drink because it's fun and facilitates social interaction.  People who take drugs or drink to "escape reality" are on a road that leads nowhere.  People who have fun getting high are simply enjoying the blessings this world has to offer.

JoshMorris
JoshMorris

@herbalmagick @CarolineNees 

And some of us don't need to escape and just like to have responsible fun. The idea that alcohol or drugs CAN'T be used responsibly it's what's harmful.