When you envision an addict, the image that comes to mind isn’t usually the businessman or woman that appears to have it all together. The standard model of an addict is often the visibly struggling individual with nothing going for them—but that’s not always the case. No one is exempt from battling an addiction, especially not just because they’re intelligent and successful. The relationship between intelligence and addiction commonly forms in high-stress environments with high expectations and fast-paced cultures.
Why Intelligent Individuals Are More Prone to Addiction
Addiction is a complex, chronic condition that affects the individual’s brain, causing psychological, behavioral, and physical changes. As the body develops a dependence on the substance, it becomes accustomed to the effects, requiring it more and more. Intelligent people are so busy with their workload and responsibilities that they don’t invest the time to implement healthy methods for treating their stress and mental exhaustion. People looking for quick and easy fixes will likely use drugs or drink alcohol. According to an article on American Addiction Centers, multiple studies have shown that middle-class people consume more alcohol and illegal drugs than those below the poverty line.
Considering intelligence as a risk factor for addiction might seem unusual; however, the link between the two is based on varies. Intelligent individuals often hold the entitlement of being able to do whatever they want without facing the consequences. Many people often believe they are exempt from substance addiction because they don’t have an addictive personality or aren’t the kind of person to become addicted. The trios are excused from obtaining a substance use disorder (SUD)—regardless of status, race, sex, or age.
Chasing Satisfaction and Excitement
When intelligent, successful people feel they’ve achieved all they can, they find themselves in a dull, mundane state of mind. As humans, we’re naturally always searching for something new to excite and entertain us. Our brain’s reward system longs for the dopamine (DA) release from the anticipation of chasing after something that fuels inspiration or satisfaction. For instance, when somehow their life, they might pursue a new hobby or buy a new car. In unhealthy circumstances, someone who already has everything might turn to alcohol or drugs for a different kind of thrill. The need to continually chase after something that excites you often leads people down dangerous paths. Finding satisfaction in an activity or thing that will further improve your growth and well-being is better in the short and long term.
Searching for Coping Mechanisms
When you find yourself struggling or stressed out with life, it can be difficult to think logically. Out of desperation, drugs and alcohol are commonly used as a coping method for stress and pain—mental and physical. Identifying healthy coping mechanisms and applying them to your life requires effort and patience, which few people have. Grabbing a case of beer or a much more straightforward might seem more straightforward than practicing breathing exercises or attending a workout class, but it won’t improve your quality of life. The euphoric, good feeling you get from drinking or doing drugs is short-lived. When the intoxication wears off, you’re right back where you were.
The workplace is a common addiction trigger for many individuals due to the fast-paced, stressful culture and environment. So many intelligent individuals are constantly stressed out and choose to alleviate that pressure through substances—which eventually develops into an addiction or a SUD.
Cognitive distortions are often referred to as patterns of irrational thoughts. For someone struggling with addiction, a cognitive distortion would contradict their addiction and its effect on their lives. Rationalizing substance abuse problems can damage your overall health and well-being. When an unhealthy habit is ignored and overlooked, it becomes an even bigger problem over time—an addiction. This is a common issue seen in the workplace as many businessmen and women don’t want to be viewed differently for struggling with alcohol or drugs. The stigma surrounding drug and alcohol addiction creates these unhealthy thought patterns and causes people to manage their addiction silently.
Society places a dangerous amount of pressure on people to be and act. A certain anxiety pressure in the workplace can be overwhelming as employees feel the need to perform in a specific way to impress or please others. One might feel pressured or tempted to participate if coworkers go out for drinks every other night to socialize. While there’s no harm in grabbing a drink with friends, these social activities can be unhealthy if done in excess and due to peer pressure. College students often experience social anxiety due to the college lifestyle and social environment’s challenging difficulty in limiting the amount of alcohol they consume at a college party when everyone is encouraging them to drink more. High-stress environments place a lot of pressure on people, forcing them to fit in and adapt to the established norms and expectations.
Living Up to Expectations
The expectations placed on intelligent individuals to always do things perfectly and precisely is one of the reasons intelligence and addiction correlate. Climbing the corporate ladder has always been complex, yet many people have made it their goal or duty. If someone prosperous a successful family, they feel pressured to live up to their expectations. High-paying jobs are also highly demanding, often placing unrealistic expectations on the employee’s performance and workload. People commonly result to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with the pressure and stress of the workplace. Sometimes it can be even more stressful to try and live citations rather than another crit. The most prominent critic is ourselves. The pressure we put on and the expectations we set for ourselves can sometimes be more harmful than helpful. It can drive us to resort to unhealthy coping methods like drinking to relax or doing drugs to enhance performance. While having goals and expectations for yourself is generally beneficial, they must be done in moderation.
How to Maintain a Healthy, Successful Life Free of Addiction
Constance Scharff, Ph.D., says, “What makes someone achieve at that level–the top executives–is often a stress or trauma that happened early on. Something, usually an early experience, fuels that kind of drive, and often it’s the same thing that drives addiction. The vast didn’t meet some basic needs, so they’re driven hard to succeed. But the pain that goes with that is also what they’re self-medicating for.” Intelligent and successful people are hard workers who have spent ample time working to get where they are. When they get to the place they were working towards, one might feel as though their life has stopped—this is when they start drinking more often or using drugs. The reality is that they’re masking a deeper-rooted internal issue that cannot be solved by working or drinking.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to your success and long-term health as a successful individual. Implementing healthy coping mechanisms will help you veer from social pressures and temptations. While the constant desire for something new and exciting might not change, the things you choose to chase and pursue can.
- American Addiction Centers, 2021. Stress and Alcohol Abuse in Middle-Class Professionals.
- Coastal Detox, 2023. Is the Workplace a Relapse Trigger for Drug Addiction?
- Forbes, 2013. Why The Brains Of High-Powered People May Be More Prone To Addiction.