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personal success correlate addiction - story of success - twin lakes recovery centerCharles Dickens was addicted to opium.

Thomas Edison used cocaine elixir while he was working.

Walt Disney attempted to overdose on drugs and alcohol when he was 31 years old.

Jimi Hendrix was addicted to drugs most of his adult life. When he died, wine and barbiturates were found in his system.

Miles Davis was addicted to heroin for years.

Tchaikovsky was known to have suffered from depression, which he self-medicated with alcohol.

Sigmund Freud regularly used cocaine.

Stephen King was once addicted to cocaine, alcohol, and Valium.

Edgar Allen Poe was an alcoholic and also frequently used other drugs.

Francis Crick, a molecular biologist, was high on LSD when he discovered the double-helix DNA model.

Vincent van Gogh regularly consumed absinthe.

The list goes on and on.

There is a definite correlation between intelligence, creativity, success, and addiction. David Linden, a neuroscience professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine, spent some time analyzing addiction research and has argued that the same traits that make an individual successful are the same characteristics that make them “good” at addiction.

  • Obsession
  • Strong drive for success
  • Dedication
  • Risk-taking
  • Novelty or adventure-seeking

According to Linden’s research, one quality that makes successful people more prone to addiction is that they are good learners. The pathways in the brain “learn” what feels good, therefore leading into addiction. The pleasure derived from success affects the very same pathways in the brain that make substance abuse so irresistible. Linden claims that the general idea that individuals who suffer from addiction get more pleasure from using substances, and therefore do more, is completely wrong. He argues that the genetic variations that predispose someone to becoming addicted are mutations that weaken the dopamine system. He writes, “So what happens is that people seek the point of pleasure: A normal person can go to the tavern and have a couple of drinks for an effect, but my friend who has an addiction risk has to have ten to get to the same place.”

There are also other factors that may incline successful people to becoming addicts.

Stress is a leading factor. People who strive for success in their careers often place themselves under a lot of stress to be the best. They may rationalize that because they work hard, they “deserve” a few drinks, or whatever their drug of choice may be. The fact that they are doing well outwardly (financially stable, moving up the career ladder, etc.) may make them even more unlikely to admit they have a problem. People often think that being addicted means being homeless or living on skid row. Successful people can go a long time in denial. Even if they admit they have a problem, another problem arises—they may fear loss of their career if people find out they have a substance abuse problem.

Low self-esteem is another leading factor in addiction.

Many outwardly successful people may be struggling internally with low self-esteem, which may why they are so driven. Perfectionism and low self-esteem go hand-in-hand, as the person never thinks that they are good enough. An individual with this mindset may use substances to cover up the inner feelings of inferiority.

Some studies also show a correlation between high IQ and substance abuse.

Two major studies have proven the connection between high IQ in childhood and substance abuse as an adult. The Centre for Longitudinal Studies, a research council operating from the Department for Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, at the University of London, published one study in 2011, “Intelligence across childhood in relation to illegal drug use in adulthood :1970 British Cohort Study,” and one in 2012, “Intelligence quotient in childhood and the risk of illegal drug use in middle-age: the 1958 National Child Development Survey.” These studies used close to 8000 participants, following them from the age of five into adulthood. They proved a direct correlation between higher IQ levels and higher incidence of drug use and addiction. Women showed a slightly higher correlation between IQ score and drug use.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are treatment centers right in your area. Career and financial success will not last long if addiction takes over. All treatment centers keep your experience confidential, so get the help you need and deserve.

Contact us today at (770) 202-2212 to learn more about our intensive outpatient programs in Georgia. Recovery is possible, and the professionals at Twin Lakes Recovery Center can get you on the right path.



Kanazawa, S. (2010, October 31). Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs. Retrieved March, 2016.
Schiffman, M.D., M.A., M.B.A., J. E. (2011, December 13). The Successful Drug Addict. Retrieved March, 2016.
Walton, A. G. (2013, August 6). Why The Brains of High Powered People May Be More Prone To Addiction. Retrieved March, 2016.