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Are More Intelligent More Prone to Addiction?

Addictive behavior certainly doesn’t seem intelligent. People spend money they don’t have for substances that hurt their bodies, their families, and their careers. They want to quit but they can’t. And perhaps worst of all, the results are entirely predictable. It doesn’t seem like a trap intelligent people would fall into, but it appears higher intelligence might actually put you at higher risk for addiction. Several studies have shown a link between higher than average IQ and substance use disorders. There are likely a number of reasons for this.

Intelligence is unrelated to emotional stability.

As much as the Mensa crowd would hate to admit it, IQ and emotional intelligence have little to do with each other. IQ is mainly about abstract reasoning. Emotional intelligence is mainly about understanding and managing your emotions and the emotions of others.

Sometimes higher intelligence is actually an impediment to emotional stability. Studies have shown that intelligence may be linked to several mental health issues, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and ADHD, all of which make you more prone to addiction. More intelligent people may be better able to remember negative events or imagine possible future catastrophes, exacerbating depression and anxiety, respectively. They may also be more socially isolated.

Intelligent people are easily bored.

One challenge more intelligent people face is that they’re easily bored, especially while they’re in school. Drugs and alcohol may be a way of dealing with a world that fails to interest them while constantly making silly demands on their time. Chemically changing their perspective on reality might offer a welcome break.

Intelligent people are more curious.

One reason smart people often do dumb things is that they just want to see what happens. What is it about heroin that people just can’t give up? Can you get any real insight from LSD or is it all just insanity? More intelligent people are more drawn by their curiosity and less inhibited by popular opinion. Many people would never try certain drugs because of the stigma or because they were told not to. Those restrictions mean less to more intelligent people, who, in general, are more willing to try things that are evolutionarily novel.


Intelligent people often make the mistake of thinking their intelligence will keep them from making common mistakes. “Well, that guy became addicted, but I’m smarter, so it won’t happen to me.” Unfortunately, addiction isn’t the kind of trap intelligence will help you get out of. It might actually make it harder to get out.

No one is immune to addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.