Smart Drugs

Boy is this going to piss off a LOT of people. Odds are the more recreational drugs you consume the smarter you are. Counter intuitive huh?

According to Psychology Today, people who use more drugs are more intelligent. "Intelligent people don't always do the right thing," they write, "only the evolutionarily novel thing."

According to a study conducted by National Child Development, "more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children." These drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, alcohol and tobacco.

The chart on the left shows the findings of the study. It depicts the latent factor for the consumption of 13 different kinds of psychoactive drugs, (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone). There is a clear association between childhood general intelligence and adult drug consumption.

My theory is a little different. The brain conditions that give a propensity to drug use also give a propensity to intelligence.

In any case this is so totally hilarious and unexpected that it is going to blow minds. The stereotype of the stupid drug user is just plain wrong. Why might that be? Let us think: only the stupid drug users get caught. The smart ones are getting away with it and the smart ones predominate.

The stupid shits are the ones supporting drug prohibition. This is just funny as hell. It reminds me of the old joke "Drugs make people stupid. Especially the people who don't use them."

So was this true in the US?

"Very bright individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than very dull individuals," says Psychology Today. They ran the same study in the U.S. and found similar results.
I can see an explosion of illegal drug use coming if the word on this gets out as everyone tries to prove they are smarter than average.

This may explain why Drug Testing Lowers High Tech Productivity.

It is true beyond a doubt that stupid people are running the drug war and smart people are against it. Why stupid? We in the US pay $70 billion a year (according to this video) to make criminals richer and to make it easier for kids to get an illegal drug than a legal beer. How stupid do you have to be to support that? Dumber than a box of rocks.

The smarter police are catching on. Check these guys out:

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Citizens Opposing Prohibition

Here is a video by some really smart guys about the drug war.

American Drug War: The Last White Hope

Here is the trailer:

My advice to anyone who wants to try this at home? Be careful out there. Because if you are not smart enough you are likely to get caught.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 01.15.11 at 06:52 AM


I'm not surprised to see that drug testing is associated with lower productivity. If my manager needs a lab result to figure out whether I'm writing software or just sitting in my cube and giggling, he's probably not going to be very good at recognizing and hiring productive people.

Don   ·  January 15, 2011 10:35 AM

Yeah, what Don said.

And also, most techies are fairly averse to working for people who don't trust them. So they look at "Drug-free workplace, testing required." and apply somewhere else.

Kathy Kinsley   ·  January 15, 2011 7:50 PM

The question is: why do those who will not work in a drug testing environment outperform those who will?

My contention is that those who are most likely to be deterred are drug users. And given my post the drug users tend to be smarter.

M. Simon   ·  January 15, 2011 10:15 PM

Dude, you took that article seriously? Sounds like you need to do more drugs.

Three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume drugs.

I can generate pairs of random variables and find a bigger difference than .3SD about 62% of the time. And don't get me started on the causal direction & antecedent variable problems in that study. It isn't worth the electrons it's printed on.

George   ·  January 15, 2011 10:55 PM

The research reported there's a correlation between drug use and childhood IQ but didn't report a correlation between drug use and current IQ. In accordance with the heuristic "any evidence that could support the apparent conclusion of an article that wasn't mentioned doesn't exist," that clearly means the drug users have average IQs as adults. Obviously, drug use takes potentially bright kids and makes them dumb.

Joseph Hertzlinger   ·  January 16, 2011 12:49 AM


You must have missed this:

This may explain why Drug Testing Lowers High Tech Productivity.

When drug prohibition (a program that makes it easier for kids to get illegal drugs than legal beer not to mention the finance of criminals) ends those who supported the policy are going to take a very big political hit.

I look forward to the day. And I will forgive them for they know not what they do. And that is despite the fact that my brother was collateral damage in the drug war. God rest his soul.

The lives of all the innocent victims caught in the cross fire or killed mistakenly in aggressive police raids will be on their heads. Something on the order of 2,000 a year.

M. Simon   ·  January 16, 2011 6:08 AM

Drug testing also does not actually deter drug use. The alleged decline in productivity (based on a sample size of 63) must have had other causes.

As for the War on Some Drugs, we clearly have to get the government out of it to make it possible to criticize mind-rotting chemicals without being mistaken for a control freak.

Joseph Hertzlinger   ·  January 17, 2011 3:27 AM

If Drug Testing does not deter drug use why are we wasting money on it? Why does the US Navy do it?

OTOH why doesn't Microsoft do it?

BTW a sample size of 30 is sufficient to draw statistical conclusion in cases of strong connection. A sample size of 63 especially when the samples contain many data points (humans) is probably sufficient to make a conclusion.

May I quote from the report?

The regression coefficients representing potential effects of drug testing programs on productivity are both negative and significant.

Now if you want to get into a detailed discussion of the statistics - have at it. I'll do my best to keep up.

M. Simon   ·  January 17, 2011 4:10 AM

Mind rotting chemicals?

Were you referring to alcohol?

M. Simon   ·  January 17, 2011 4:14 AM

The magnitude implies that a change from not drug testing to using drug testing would reduce productivity by 19 percent. Similarly, the regression estimates in column two also suggest a large and significant decline in productivity with pre-testing use associated with 16 percent drop and random testing with 29 percent. Possible explanations for the magnitude and the direction of the estimates are explored below. Although the random test variable suggest a greater difference in productivity effects than the pre-test variable, a test that the two coefficients are equal could not be rejected.

M. Simon   ·  January 17, 2011 4:24 AM

M Simon, Sorry if you already know all this, but by pure random chance alone, pretty much whenever we compare two groups one is going to be "more" than the other on the variable of interest. But that difference isn't usually very big, so we can look at the difference and compare it to the amount of random noise (as measured by the standard deviation) to see if the difference is real, or within the range where we would expect it to be random chance. As a vague rule of thumb, we like it to be 2x the standard deviation before we say it's "real" (i.e. statistically significant). In the case of the psych today report, the difference clocks in at 0.3 SD, so smart money bets that it's just random chance and there's no relationship.

The second to last paragraph in that report is key: Once the social and demographic variables are controlled, however, the positive association between childhood intelligence and adult drug consumption is not statistically significant in the American Add Health sample. It's easy to see how other variables could make it look like there is a stronger connection between drug use and childhood intelligence, like alcohol abuse among many people of low socio-economimc status and their lack of resources with which to buy more expensive recreational drugs. This makes it look like drugs are connected to intelligence, when really both drugs and IQ scores are probably a function of demographics/upbringing.

The other report about drug testing does find big enough differences (regression p-values, but close enough) that we can say there really is something going on there. The evidence does suggest companies which drug test have lower productivity than companies which don't. Note, though, that conclusion does not imply that individual workers who could not pass drug tests are more productive than workers who could pass drug tests. It is a statement about organizations, not individuals (see the second paragraph of their "interpretation of results" section for a relevant discussion). If you wanted to say something to the effect that drug tests are a characteristic of poorly-functioning organizations, that would be a reasonable conclusion.

George   ·  January 17, 2011 5:42 PM

One of my pet theories that many of the current backers of the War on Some Drugs are former potheads now embarrassed about it ... which might explain their tendency to support pointless policies.

In case you were wondering, my attitude is "legalize it and criticize it."

Joseph Hertzlinger   ·  January 19, 2011 2:12 AM


I can get behind your January 19, 2011 2:12 AM.

Very sensible. BTW that may explain the sea change I'm seeing. The right seems to be moving to an anti-prohibition stance and the left in the opposite direction. Anecdotal to be sure. For now.

I think a lot of it is "reactionary" politics. "If the other side is against it I'm for it." And vice versa.

M. Simon   ·  January 19, 2011 5:28 PM

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