Are smart kids destined to be drunk kids?

Wait. Maybe I wasn’t just a teenage alcoholic and drug addict because I was bored or because I hit the genetic jackpot.  According to a new study, my eagerness to pick up a drink at such an early age was most likely caused by the fact that I’m a genius.  Suddenly, it all makes sense.

dr evil wide

New research suggests kids who develop language and intellectual skills earlier are more likely to drink and take other drugs than their less intelligent peers. The nice folks at Time magazine explain it like this:

“In 2011, for example, British researchers found that women who were in the top third of the IQ range when tested in elementary school were more than twice as likely as those scoring in the bottom third to have used marijuana or cocaine by age 30; for men, the top-ranked boys were almost 50% more likely to have taken amphetamine and 65% more likely to have used ecstasy (MDMA) by adulthood.”

These findings sound remarkably like my teen years. I was always a smart kid, I just didn’t always go to class. I was extremely busy with more important things. There were music videos to be watched and cigarettes to be smoked. Nevertheless, this drunken genius idea holds water, right? I mean Carl Sagan smoked weed, Steve Jobs liked LSD and Freud was a big cokehead. Yet leave it to the Finns  to rain on my “I’m an alcoholic because I’m a genius”theory.  “Social drinking in many countries and nonproblematic drinking is more frequent and common among people with higher education,” says Antti Latvala, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland and lead author of the study. The article goes on to suggest that, “Intelligence can serve as a vehicle for moderation when it comes to alcohol or drug use — the more educated people are, the more they internalize and appreciate the dangers and risks of overindulging. The higher education that’s correlated with greater intellect also puts more at stake for those who indulge in alcohol or drug abuse.” Aaaand they lost me.


This statement gets an epic eyeroll for a few reasons:

*  I know several genius drunken hot messes who didn’t use intelligence as a vehicle for moderation and instead chose to simply drive said vehicle into a tree or through someone’s living room.

* Spend enough time in 12 step programs and you’ll see a lot of folks with Ivy League educations and high-powered jobs who continue to relapse.

* As a teenage drug user, drinker and schnapps shoplifter, I never got high with the valedictorian of our class. Those kids actually did say no and did really go to class. I did however get high with the artists, actors, debaters and writers. And continued to do so for the next 20 years.

My point is, and I honestly have one (I think), that addiction and alcoholism doesn’t give a shit about how smart you are, what school you went to or how you did on your SATs.  In fact, unless you’re 17 nobody cares about your SATs. Smart, dumb, black , white, purple– from what I’ve seen this disease is an equal opportunity killer. Maybe its the other way around maybe the kids who were born addicts become smarter and more verbal to get what they wanted? Who knows? Today I’m just grateful that I’ve been struck with the wisdom that says on a daily basis, “No, Sean you can’t drink with moderation. Like ever.”  i also know that people like me are going to drink and use drugs regardless of how impractical or crazy it sounds. I submit this study about the fine folks of Alaska to support that statement.

Happy Tuesday, my fellow geniuses!


7 thoughts on “Are smart kids destined to be drunk kids?

  1. Well written. I’m also above average (I know because I’ve gone through 108575737 therapeutic hoops, some of which were intelligence tests of all kinds) and a huge cokehead, though clean now. I’ve moved through all the circles of hell that constitute the underground world of illegal hard drugs, and I can absolutely concur that all junks aren’t a “smart” selection of the population. I would rather say that I was happy whenever I met someone who could talk to me in full sentences.

  2. Well said. As someone who carried the label “smart kid” from an early age, I’ve always been one of life’s over-thinkers, which lead to me being an over-worrier and, perhaps, to leaning on alcohol as a crutch for that. But I agree that the link isn’t a clear one. One thing is clear though, more intelligent drinkers tend to be able to invent much cleverer reasons for returning to drink: “I should be able to manage moderation”, “everyone else manages to handle booze so I should be able to”, “all the cool kids do it”, etc. Perhaps we relapse more because we rationalise that we can handle it this time. But, as you write, it’s probably much more complicated than that.
    After 1 year off the booze, then a year trying “moderation” (I’ll let you figure out how that went – lol), I gave it up again a few weeks ago. As I already have a year of sobriety in my past, I know how truly great that was and so I’ve taken a few practical measures to remind me in moments of weakness this time. Yes, I may be overly-capable of thinking up creative reasons to return to drink, but I hope I can apply my intelligence to the task of replacing drinking with something fulfilling. Because, so I read, it’s not just staying away from booze but filling the time that sobriety leaves us constructively. I would hope that I, and the other smart kids, are perhaps better at filling that void. Time will tell 🙂

  3. “This disease is an equal opportunity killer” well-said, Sean.

    I know that “writers” and “doctors” are typically thought to have alcohol issues in greater abundance than other occupations, but alcohol abuse is just as prevalent in the military and blue-collar factory workers, and, gasp, even in the unemployed.

    Not many can do eyeroll like Tina. Love her.

    Enjoyed the post, hope you’ve been well my friend, xo, Christy

    • Christy!
      fab to hear from you. Yeah I think we can also add cops, waiters, yoga instructors and all members of the Village People, Fleetwood MAc and the Rolling Stones.

Comments are closed.