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02-24 Study shows children who perform well academically more likely to drink, smoke marijuana

Study shows children who perform well academically more likely to drink, smoke marijuana

A study from England involving more than 6,000 young people found that those who performed well academically were more likely to drink and smoke cannabis but less likely to smoke cigarettes than study subjects who did not perform as well. The caveat: These behaviors continue into later life and pose health concerns.

The longitudinal study involved 11-year-olds from public and private schools across England. The study was observational; data was pulled from national tests that are administered to children when they reach 11. The tests assess language, math and science skills. Test subjects were regularly interviewed regarding their alcohol and drug habits through ages 19 to 20.

Test results

Results from the test – known as the Key Stage 2 – revealed children who admitted to drinking and/or smoking cannabis scored higher than children who did not indulge. In the ensuing years, researchers followed the smoking, drug and alcohol patterns of the subjects. Based on the quantity and frequency of use, participants were categorized as regular, persistent or hazardous. With respect to cannabis use, researchers categorized the subjects as early – if they began smoking between 13 and 17 – or late – 18 to 20 – if they were occasional or persistent users.

Students who registered in the high academic performance tier were 25 percent more likely to smoke marijuana and 53 percent more likely to drink alcohol. These percentages were higher than for less academically gifted students. These behaviors remained consistent as the kids progressed through adolescence and into young adulthood. These same respondents were less likely to smoke cigarettes even though they may have experimented with them when younger.

According to Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 13 is the average age when individuals age 12 to 17 begin to drink. The School notes in a national study, over 11 percent of eighth-graders reported being drunk at least one time in the prior year.

No one is immune to addiction

The results of this research contradict the notion that only underperformers get addictions. Even when kids do well in school, they are not immune to addiction. Parents need to be vigilant and recognize the signs of alcohol or drug abuse even when their child’s grades are good.

Sovereign Health’s adolescent treatment facility in Rancho San Diego treats teens with behavioral health problems, including alcohol and drug addiction. We use the latest evidence-based treatment modalities to ensure each patient receives the highest level of behavioral health care. Contact our 24/7 helpline to learn more about how we can help your son or daughter overcome a substance abuse problem.

About the author

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health. He worked over two years as a reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

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