Addiction and Intelligence: Is There a Connection?

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Reading | Addiction | The Hills

Naturally, it is often assumed that intelligent people will do intelligent things. However, there is a valid argument about how intelligent people are more likely to develop addictions. Numerous studies have been done in recent years investigating the connection between intelligence and addiction that show a direct link between the two.

For instance, in 2011, there was a study that was conducted on almost 8,000 people measuring their IQs at different ages and following up with records of their drug use. This study revealed the following facts:

  • People with higher IQs are more likely to use drugs like cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, or even different combinations of drugs.
  • Women with high IQs are two times more likely to use cannabis or cocaine by age 30.
  • Men with high IQs are two times more likely to take amphetamines and 65% more prone to taking ecstasy.

The facts are there to support the conclusion – but the question that remains is why do intelligent people fall victim to addiction?

Why do Intelligent People Fall Victim to Addiction?

There are a number of reasons that intelligent people fall victim to addiction. It’s important to recognize these reasons in order to help prevent yourself or someone else from falling victim to addiction caused by high intelligence.

Some very common reasons that intelligent people form addictions are:

  • Boredom – Intelligent people find themselves bored in everyday life because they are rarely challenged. This boredom can lead to a desire to try drugs to feel something new and exciting.
  • Curiosity – Intelligent people are known for being curious and wanting to expand their minds, and many of them turn to drugs for a different perception of what they already know simply out of curiosity.
  • Creativity – Intelligent and creative people will sometimes turn to drugs for unique and bizarre experiences that they can turn into art.
  • Stimulation Seeking – Some intelligent people need very high stimulation, and if they cannot find that in everyday life, they will seek it within drugs.
  • Disconnect – Intelligent people feel that they are smart enough to overcome the negative aspects of doing drugs and that they can prevent themselves from falling victim to addiction.
  • Racing Thoughts – Many intelligent people fall victim to drugs that can help them calm their minds and get rest because they usually live with constant racing thoughts.
  • Social Isolation – Intelligent people often have trouble relating to other people and find themselves in awkward social interactions that can cause them to turn to drugs to try to make them feel more comfortable. Sometimes, the drugs are taken by socially isolated intelligent people that want to fight their feelings of loneliness as well.

While not all intelligent people that face these feelings turn to drugs in order to cope with them, many of them do.

Why is Intelligence a Risk Factor for Addiction?

For most people, intelligence is a positive trait that they want to have. The risk factors for addiction include things like genetics or having an addict as a parent or experiencing trauma or having a mental illness – not being extremely smart, right? While that would seem to be the way that the world works, it is not necessarily true.

In Matt Davis’ article from Big Think, he explores the connection between intelligence and addiction, trying to figure out exactly why intelligence is a risk factor.

One of the theories that Davis puts forward for explaining the connection between intelligence and addiction that ties it into another factor: people with high IQs tend to grow up in more financially stable areas and therefore engage with addiction in a different way than people who came up financially disadvantaged might due to their access to rehabilitation facilities and medical advice.

Higher Intelligence Usually Means More Mental Health Issues

Higher intelligence is not without its downsides. A Scientific American article from 2017 reports that in a survey of a large number of Mensa members, a variety of mental health issues were significantly more common than in the general population. For clarification, Mensa is the oldest high IQ society in the world that only accepts members who can score in the 98th percentile on a standardized, supervised IQ test. There are only 134,000 members worldwide.

Furthermore, 27% of Mensa members have been diagnosed with a mental illness like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, along with another 20% that have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Only 10% of the general population suffers from mental disorders.

Knowing this and knowing that mental health issues are a huge risk factor for addiction definitely shows a link between intelligence and addiction.

Intelligent People Tend to Try New Things

Another viewpoint presented in the article is that of psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa; she believes that highly intelligent peoples are far more likely to try things that are new and exciting simply from an evolutionary standpoint. Her viewpoint is backed by the fact that the common experimental drugs among highly intelligent people – like MDMA, LSD, heroin, and cocaine – have only been around for a short time in our history.

She claims that the general population tends to shy away from new drugs that are unknown, but highly intelligent people are drawn to them, even if they are dangerous.

The Verdict – Mental Health Issues Feed Addiction

In the conclusion of the article, it is noted that the more convincing argument for the connection between intelligence and addiction lies in the mental health issues that most highly intelligent people face. It means that intelligent people feel more isolated socially and feel more anxiety about the world around them because they are more likely to realize problematic circumstances over less intelligent people. Essentially, the article comes to the theoretical conclusion that mental illness within highly intelligent people creates the risk factor for addiction.

Intelligence, Emotional Instability, and Maturity

Just because someone is considered intelligent does not mean that they are emotionally stable or mature. It simply means that they have a high IQ. Even further, a high IQ does not equate to having smarts that help you survive. You could just be extremely good at taking standardized tests or have a photographic memory. One thing it’s important to note is that multiple researchers bring up the topic of highly intelligent people being more aware of the world around them and more likely to feel anxious, making it a repeat offender in the intelligence as a risk factor debate. Racing thoughts and high sensitivity are also mentioned as characteristics of an intelligent person’s unstable personality.

Furthermore, being intelligent does not automatically mean that a person is mature. Often, high intelligence is coupled with emotional immaturity because of the social isolation or awkwardness of the person and his or her inability to emotionally mature at a normal pace.

Turn Your Intelligence into Determination

So, you fell into addiction. In today’s world, there is an incredible amount of help available to you. Maybe you still feel like you are above the addiction and managing it somehow because of your high intelligence. This is not the case.

Take your intelligence and turn it into determination to become sober. There are many ways that you can find help and many of these options are offered here at The Hills.

  • Residential Treatment – This recovery option involves living at a rehabilitation facility and completely immersing yourself in recovery away from outside triggers and can last from a few days to several months, depending on the severity of your addiction.
  • Day Treatment – This recovery option is also called partial hospitalization. It involves living at home in a stable living environment but spending most of your days at a treatment center (typically 7 or 8 hours).
  • Outpatient Treatment – This recovery option is normally used to prevent relapse and works around your work or school schedules to treat you in the day or evening.
  • Sober Living Communities – This recovery option generally follows a stay in a residential treatment center and is a sober home that helps an addict to adjust to life outside of rehab by giving the addict a safe environment to learn to live sober before going out into a world full of triggers.
  • Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous – These support groups offer tried and true Twelve Step programs that can help you get and stay sober. You will usually go through a Twelve Step program while in rehab.

No matter which recovery option you choose, you should also be aware of the four things that you will always go through to gain sobriety:

  • Detoxification – You will have to rid your body of all drugs and get through the withdrawal process. The difficulty of this step depends on the severity of your addiction and other factors. It is impossible to predict how your body will react to detox, so always get medical help during this process. Never attempt detox alone.
  • Behavioral Counseling – Therapy is always a huge part of addiction recovery. You will go through many kinds – individual, group, and possibly even family therapy – to identify triggers and help you learn to repair your relationships and learn better coping skills.
  • Medication – Medication is commonly used to help you cope with issues like depression and anxiety that can become a problem during recovery. Most of the time, the medication is temporary and meant to help you overcome a rough patch.
  • Long-Term Follow Up – After you’ve gained sobriety, it is important to remember that you will always be an addict, you are now a recovering or recovered addict who will need to use resources around you – like support groups or even online meetings – to remain sober.

Ways to Remain Sober

Circle | Addiction | The HillsRemaining sober can be hard for a recovering addict in the beginning, but the process of changing from a recovering addict to a recovered addict doesn’t have to be hard. There are ways to help you deal with stress and keep cravings away and triggers at a safe distance as a stopgap measure after leaving your residential treatment facility or another form of rehabilitation.

Some ways to relieve stress quickly and without drugs are:

  • Exercise. Go outside and move. Take a walk around your block and release endorphins. You can even do yoga or meditate – or both!
  • Savor the sun. Step outside and enjoy fresh air and the sun on your face. Go to a place with a beautiful view.
  • Play with your pet! If you don’t have one, consider getting one. Pets can be wonderful emotional support.
  • Smell the world around you. Smell things that remind you of things or places that make you happy – like your partner’s perfume or coffee beans.
  • Close your eyes and see peace. Think of a peaceful or happy memory or simply a relaxing place like a forest clearing or an empty beach with cool blue water.
  • Treat yourself. Pamper yourself at home or treat yourself to some pampering elsewhere – you deserve it!

There are also some ways to keep your cravings and triggers at bay like:

  • Do not go around your friends that use drugs. Surround yourself with new friends that support your sobriety.
  • Do not go to bars or clubs. These places are breeding grounds for temptation and triggers.
  • Make sure to be truthful with your doctors about your addiction. If you are getting a medical procedure done that may have a painkiller prescribed afterwards, be honest with your doctor and ask for an alternative to the drug.
  • Distract yourself with fun, sober activities – like reading, going to the movies, or finding a new hobby.
  • Do not keep your struggles to yourself. If you are dealing with a craving or a trigger, talk about it with someone you trust or reach out to your therapists at the residential treatment facility in order to get help with getting back on the road to recovery.

In Conclusion…

High intelligence may be a risk factor for addiction, but it does not have to be a death sentence. There are many ways to seek treatment, and some of them are in the palm of your hand (in your smartphone). Don’t let your intelligence be your downfall; reign it in and allow it to raise you up to a life of sobriety and success.

Whether you’re struggling with reaching sobriety for the first time or staying on that path towards recovery, The Hills can help. Reach out to us today in order to find out how our facility can help you!

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