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Why Higher Intelligence Can Make Addiction Treatment Harder

Studies have shown that people with higher IQs are actually more prone to addiction. There are a number of possible reasons for this. One is that intelligence correlates with a number of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and ADHD, all of which put you at greater risk for addiction. Intelligent people are also more curious, and less likely to be restrained by social norms. They therefore often experiment with more drugs and at an earlier age. They may feel like they won’t fall into the trap of addiction because they are too smart for that. Unfortunately, intelligence doesn’t protect you from addiction and it may even make it harder to recover. Here’s why.

More intelligent people are good at rationalization.

More intelligent people may spend more time in denial because they are excellent at rationalizing behavior. They may legitimately believe they’re being analytical when they are really just trying to justify their addiction. They may feel like the people encouraging them to get help just don’t understand. They may deploy complex arguments for why they don’t have a problem. These arguments may or may not convince others, but they are usually enough to convince themselves or at least keep them from getting help.

More intelligent people are often averse to 12-step programs.

12-step programs seem to require two things many intelligent people can’t stand–conformity and faith. Joining a group, and especially admitting weakness in front of a group is hard. Intelligent people naturally distrust the judgment of groups, which is often less than the sum of its parts. They also have a particular problem putting faith in a higher power. Call it what you want, skepticism runs deep. Fortunately, studies have shown that the sober network you find at 12-step meetings is probably the single most important part, so if you can’t muster any faith but you can join the group, you will probably still get some benefit.

More intelligent people don’t like to take advice from people they see as less intelligent.

It doesn’t matter how many letters you have after your name; if someone sees you as less intelligent, she will have a hard time taking your advice. This is often to her detriment, of course, especially if she would rather not admit a problem. She may believe she can think her way out of trouble, when what’s needed is something else entirely. No one likes to be vulnerable, but intelligent people can deploy more defenses against vulnerability, which can be an impediment to recovery.

No one is immune to addiction, no matter how intelligent. 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.