That pothead in the back of your high school history class was probably smarter than anyone gave them credit to be. According to a study by the British Medical Journal, smart people smoke more weed than their less intelligent counterparts.
Researchers found that people with higher childhood IQs would be more likely to use cannabis by the time they hit 30. To execute the study, they tested the IQs of 8,000 individuals on four different occasions between the ages of five and 30 (at ages five, 10, 16, and 30) and found that the higher a person’s IQ, the greater chance they’d be getting high.
“Although most studies have suggested that higher child or adolescent IQ prompts the adoption of a healthy lifestyle as an adult, other studies have linked higher childhood IQ scores to excess alcohol intake and alcohol dependency in adulthood,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers did not point to a specific reason why higher intelligence might be correlated with a greater chance of smoking weed. They hypothesized however that those with higher IQs might also be more “open to experiences” and be “keen on novelty and stimulation.” But they also connected high intelligence to a greater likelihood of being anxious or maladjusted to their environments. That, too, might be connected to smart people’s desires to escape or self-medicate by using cannabis or other substances.
Moreover, because cannabis offers different modes of thought and perception, it might also be more popular among smarter people because it enhances the cerebral experience.
The researchers’ findings also correlate with other evidence that high academic achievers are more likely to be well, high in general. A nine year study from University College London found that smart 11-year-olds who did well at school had a higher chance of smoking weed and drinking alcohol in high school, but were less likely to smoke cigarettes. The data was based on over 6,000 young students from England. Their aversion to tobacco cigarettes was attributed to their middle-class upbringings, which taught them about the dangers of smoking.
“These associations persist into early adulthood, providing evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary ‘experimentation’ with substance use,” the researchers wrote.
However, according to Dr. William James from University College London Medical School, “the outcomes of cannabis use were found to be worsened by early onset and increased frequency of use.” He emphasized that understanding the risk factors for teenage substance use could inform public health policy and help target interventions for people who are at higher risk.