• British researchers found children with higher IQs more likely to use cannabis, and other drugs, later in life
  • Female children with high IQs are more likely to use cannabis than their male counterparts
  • The findings were the same for children of all social classes
  • Researchers believe high IQ children are more likely to try cannabis due to being more open to new experiences, with an interest in stimulation
  • Other theories claim smarter children are often bullied, turning to drugs as an avoidant coping strategy

A study from 2011 may be the key to dismantling the age-old stereotype that people who smoke cannabis are a bit ‘slower’ than most, that using cannabis ‘kills your brain cells.’

Prohibitionists lament the idea of legalising cannabis, even for medicinal use, proclaiming fears of their children succumbing to ‘the evils of Reefer Madness’; fears that their children will suffer a stunt in their mental growth if they partake in the ‘devil’s lettuce.’

Numerous studies, however, are slowly, but surely, dismantling this argument.

Firstly, while heavy use of cannabis in your teenage years is associated with slightly poorer exam results at age 16, occasional adolescent cannabis use does not lead to poorer educational and intellectual performance.

Secondly, there is now evidence that cannabis use is associated with a higher level of IQ as a child.

The research team gathered their base data from the results of the 1970 British Cohort study, which collected information from 17,000 people born in the UK in a single week of 1970. The Cohort study is investigating socio-economic factors, education, and lifelong drug use of the subjects from birth to death.

Using data from 8,000 of the subjects, the team noted their IQ scores at ages 5 and 10 before dividing the results into sexes. Researchers then collated this data with drug usage by the age of 30.

The results showed that, across both males and females, those with a higher IQ during children were more likely to partake in drug use by the age of 30.

Researchers found that females with high childhood IQs were more likely to specifically try cannabis than their male counterparts, who were more likely to use harder drugs, such as ecstasy (MDMA) or amphetamines.

The studies findings held true regardless of mental illness during adolescence (anxiety/depression), lifetime household income, or parental social class. Smart kids, irrespective of their upbringing, are just more likely to try drugs, particularly cannabis for women. But why?

The authors of the study relied on previous studies to explain why an elevated IQ in women leads in to an increased chance of using cannabis later in life.

Mainly, the researchers believe that highly intelligent people are “open to experiences and keen on novelty and stimulation.”

The authors’ second theory is based on research which demonstrates that smarter children are often bullied at school due to being different, and get bored easier than those of lower IQs, which could “conceivably increase vulnerability to using drugs as an avoidant coping strategy.”

There is no explanation, yet, as to why women are more inclined to try cannabis than males.

Despite the evidence from this study show that children with higher IQs are more likely to use cannabis than those with lower IQs, there is also evidence that heavy use of cannabis in adolescence may impede mental development.

According to one study, while occasional use of cannabis during teenage years has “may not have a detrimental effect on cognition,” heavier cannabis users (at least 50 times by age 15) however, “did show marginally impaired educational abilities.”

The evidence that cannabis use doesn’t impact the brain in the negative manner prohibitionists describe is building, as is the evidence that those with higher IQs, especially women, are more likely to use cannabis.

Negative stereotypes about cannabis are crashing down all around those opposed to legalisation.

Another argument against legalising cannabis is that it will make it easier for teens to get their hands on the drug. Again, research has successfully challenged this notion, with one study finding that teen use of cannabis in Washington dropped since it was legalised in 2012.

More research will be needed into the long-term impact cannabis has on the developing brain before any concrete conclusions can be made, but for now, at least, the evidence seems to overwhelmingly suggest that the fears of prohibitionists are misplaced.

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