New Study: Smart People More Likely to Use Drugs

By Tony O'Neill 05/07/11

A controversial scientist claims that high I.Q. Individuals are more prone to engage in "evolutionarily novel" behaviors.

A New Study of Freaks and Geeks
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Feeling a little frustrated by your constant cravings for crack? Here's some news that may lift your spirits: A new study by a London School of Economics evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa suggests what some have suspected all along: For better or worse, smart people may be more inclined to use drugs.

In a recent article for Psychology Today, Kanazawa claims that there's a measurable link between high childhood IQ and a predisposition toward “novel” behaviors. The scientist speculates that because they tend to be more comfortable with new or novel behavior, high IQ individuals are more likely to be drawn to drugs than low IQ individuals. Kanazawa cites a U.K. study that suggests that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children. Regardless of sex, religion, religiosity, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, or their social class, British children who tested better on IQ tests before they were 16 were much more likely to consume psychoactive drugs as adults than less intelligent children. A similar study of American kids produced the same results. But you shouldn't feel too proud of these findings. Kanazawa goes on to point out that the fact that the consumption of psychoactive drugs has negative health consequences and few (if any) benefits doesn't contradict his controversial findings. After all, he's not saying that intelligent individuals are more likely to engage in healthy behavior, just that they're more likely to engage in evolutionarily novel behavior.

But we’ll have none of that defeatist talk around here. So fellow pill-poppers, junkies and crack aficionados rejoice--we may be missing a few more teeth (and memories) than the Average Joe, but at least we can take some small comfort in the fact that our intelligence was partly to blame. Now if somebody could just explain how admitted alcoholic and coke fiend George W. Bush fits in with this thesis.

UPDATE (5/23): Kanazawa is now reportedly under an ethics investigation by his employer, the London School of Economics, for a blog he wrote for the Psychology Today website last week claiming that he had proved that black women were "objectively" less attractive than other races. The blog has been wiped from the site in the wake of a firestorm of criticism, with no word from the editors, although this follow-up blog sheds some light on the data Kanazawa used. We have not yet learned that Kanazawa's Psych Today blog linking smart people and drug use is also based on cooked data or a half-baked analysis.

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Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.