Sunday, January 29, 2012

GSS on drug use and IQ

Inductivist points to a new article in the journal Intelligence that finds that recreational drug use and alcohol consumption correlate positively with intelligence up to a certain point before trending in opposite directions again at the right end of bell curve, the thought being that openness to experience is a personality trait that tends to be associated with higher IQ, and drug use is a way to open oneself up to more novel experiences.

I'm not sure how strong the correlations are or if the relationship holds for some type of alcohol consumption or recreational drug use versus abstention from all of them, or if the correlation holds in varying degrees for alcohol and each drug considered separately (only the abstract is freely accessible). Based on GSS responses and a United Health Foundation report, alcohol consumption and IQ appear to be positively correlated.

Recreational drug usage is a topic for which the GSS contains a relevant question as well, so why not see if it supports what the journal article found? The percentage of respondents who have ever injected illicit drugs by intelligence grouping*. To allow ample time for experimentation to have occurred, only those aged 30 or older are included. For contemporary relevance, all responses are from 2002 or later (n = 9,892):

Intelligence
Injected
Real Dumbs
4.0%
Pretty Dumbs
3.9%
Normals
3.5%
Pretty Smarts
3.2%
Really Smarts
2.3%

This doesn't include smoking weed, the most easily attainable and frequent form of recreational drug use in the US. That said, the modest relationship is, in contrast to the article's finding, inversely correlated with intelligence.

I wonder how important the specific drug in question is to detecting a relationship between usage and intelligence. Presumably crack cocaine users tend to be less intelligent than powdered users are (although as crack is a predominately black drug and powdered cocaine a predominately Hispanic one, neither may correlate positively with intelligence). I'd guess that meth use and intelligence, if anything, trend in opposite directions, as the stereotypical methhead is a rustic white prole of the lowest order. PCP, shrooms, LSD, and ecstasy, on the other hand, are fairly prevalent on college campuses. I know people who use or have used all of them, and they're mostly well-adjusted and intelligent folks. I don't have much of an impression one way or the other when it comes to heroin. The Chinese liked it and it seems pretty popular in Europe, but I'm aware of heroin users who are of cut from the same cloth as methheads, too.

Parenthetically, I've never had even the slightest desire to engage in illicit drug use of any kind. I've associated it with being sickly and desperate for as long as I can remember, and always avoided it without issue even during my formative years. On personality tests, I come up around the 40th percentile on openness, so that bit of built-in protection might help a little, too!

GSS variables used: EVIDU, WORDSUM, AGE(30-89)

* Respondents are broken up into five categories that come to roughly resemble a normal distribution; Really Smarts (wordsum score of 9-10, comprising 13% of the population), Pretty Smarts (7-8, 26%), Normals (6, 22%), Pretty Dumbs (4-5, 27%), and Real Dumbs (0-3, 12%)

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Real druggies don't take the GSS at all, which tends to skew the sample. And a lot of low-IQ people will lie and say they don't never take no drugs, no sir, because they don't trust the man.

So I'd take these results with a generous portion of salt.

jtollison78 said...

I've always felt drawn towards drugs, though I've always been afraid of developing an addiction I couldn't afford, so my use has been relatively low.

John

Ed Tom Kowalsky said...

Smoked a fair amount of weed in my teens and early/mid twenties and was consistently ambivalent about the experience. Much of my inhalation stemmed from desiring to fit in with friends. But I haven't touched the stuff in over 15 years and have no desire to whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

"moked a fair amount of weed in my teens and early/mid twenties and was consistently ambivalent about the experience. Much of my inhalation stemmed from desiring to fit in with friends. But I haven't touched the stuff in over 15 years and have no desire to whatsoever.:

I lost friends because I didn't take drugs. They stopped hanging out with me. Part of me wishes I had done it. Now I find out that all these Presidents and candidates used drugs and slept around. I feel like an idiot. I truly hate people like Clinton, Bush and Gingrich, especially when they talk about religion.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

I drifted away some friends and one girlfriend because I was always straight, but definitely never experienced anything like the DARE skits where I was mocked or belittled for it. Were you?

Anonymous said...

"Anon,

I drifted away some friends and one girlfriend because I was always straight, but definitely never experienced anything like the DARE skits where I was mocked or belittled for it. Were you?"

No, I wasn't mocked. We just didn't hang around anymore.

nydwracu said...

I've always considered heroin much lower-class than cocaine as far as drugs go, and the friends I know who do more drugs than I do say it's also more dangerous. Same with PCP. Cocaine, on the other hand, isn't that hard to get. I could get to it easily if I were so inclined, but it's expensive and overrated so I don't see much of a point.

As for my own opinion of drugs, I have no problem with experimenting with the less dangerous ones, but most of them so far I've found to be fairly pointless. I always end up coming back to tobacco and alcohol; not even weed does that much for me, besides make me find everything much funnier than it is.

a.danna said...

That's an interesting study. Too bad it didn't provide any clues on how we should approach the drug addiction problem more effectively on different levels of IQs. The closest I can get on this kind of details is on a non 12 step rehab resource.

Anonymous said...

The intelligence scale used on this test amazes me. I hardly think the top 13% of the population constitute "really smarts". Wouldn't it be smarter, by which I mean a study conducted in a much better manner, to use a scale, such as IQ, which is based on standard deviation? Within that top 13%, there are VAST differences between the smartest and dumbest people in that group. I like to meet all types of people, and I've encountered many highly intelligent people who use drugs, though most seem to prefer psychedelics, the "thinking man's drug". It is my personal opinion, based on what I've seen, that many highly intelligent (above 130 IQ, or 2 SDs) people don't believe the garbage they're fed, preferring to base their drug usage on relative risk (as determined by science) rather than social pressure. I would also like to suggest the possibility that those of higher intelligence might consider the potential repercussions of admitting past or present drug use. As intelligence positively associates with better life outcomes, these people may also be more likely to work in positions or be a part of social circles where admitting to drug use may have harsher consequences (e.g. compare a doctor and a labourer admitting to past drug use). There is very likely an under-reporting bias present, which makes me question the validity of this study.