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December 20th, 2011

Some Advanced Learners at Greater Risk for Substance Abuse

A newly published report in the British Medical Association’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health concludes that high childhood IQ may increase the risk of illegal drug use in adolescence and adulthood, even after accounting for socioeconomic and psychological factors. The article is titled: Intelligence across childhood in relation to illegal drug use in adulthood: 1970 British Cohort Study. Here’s the abstract:

Background – Recent reports have linked high childhood IQ scores with excess alcohol intake and alcohol dependency in adult life, but the relationship with illegal drug use in later life is relatively unknown.

Methods - The authors used data from a large population-based birth cohort (1970 British Cohort Study) with measures of lifetime cannabis and cocaine use, parental social class and psychological distress at 16 years; cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy and polydrug use (more than three drugs) in the past 12 months; and social class, educational attainment and gross monthly income at 30 years. All members of the cohort with IQ scores at 5 or 10 years were eligible to be included in the analyses.

Results – Of the 11 603 (at 5 years) and 11 397 (at 10 years) cohort members eligible, 7904 (68.1%) and 7946 (69.7%) were included in the analyses. IQ scores at 5 years were positively associated with cannabis (OR (bottom vs top tertile) =2.25, 95% CI 1.71 to 2.97) and cocaine use (OR 2.35, 95% CI 1.41 to 3.92) in women and with amphetamines (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.06), ecstasy (OR 1.65, 95% CI 1.15 to 2.36) and polydrug use (OR 1.57, 95% CI 1.09 to 2.26) in men at 30 years. IQ scores at 10 years were positively associated with cannabis, cocaine (only at 30 years), ecstasy, amphetamine and polydrug use. Associations were stronger in women than in men and were independent from psychological distress in adolescence and life-course socioeconomic position.

Conclusion – High childhood IQ may increase the risk of illegal drug use in adolescence and adulthood.

The complete report is here.

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