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Teens that drink and smoke weed are smarter, says study

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Emily Badiozzaman
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Being in the crew behind the bike sheds passing around a joint and knocking yourself out senseless may have branded you as one of the ‘bad kids’, but it turns out you were probably one of the smarter students. 

A nine-year study by University College London has found that clever kids are twice as likely to smoke cannabis during their teenage years due to their curious minds.

Analysis of over 6,000 students found that those who are high academic achievers at the age of 11 are also more likely to drink alcohol as teenagers, but less likely to smoke cigarettes.

Bright kids from 838 state and 52 public schools across England were found to be more likely to smoke weed than cigs, which is thought to be down to middle-class parents warning their children about the health dangers of tobacco. 

Researchers found that clever children are more likely to smoke cannabis in their late teenage years because they have greater curiosity and strive to be accepted by older people.

They added that smarter children are "initially cautious of illegal substances in early adolescence as they are more aware of the immediate and long-term repercussions that breaking the law may incur than those with lower academic ability."

Scientists gathered information on the academic achievement of children at age 11 and compared it with their behaviour during early adolescence, defined as age 13-17, and then late adolescence, defined as age 18-20.

During their late teenage years, clever children were more than twice as likely to drink alcohol regularly and persistently than those who were not as clever.

Meanwhile, smarter pupils were 50% more likely to use cannabis occasionally and nearly twice as likely to use it persistently than their less gifted peers.

Researchers found that these patterns persisted into adulthood and appear to contradict the notion that academic prowess was associated with a greater tendency to 'experiment' temporarily with these substances.

"High childhood academic at age 11 is associated with a reduced risk of cigarette smoking but an increased risk of drinking alcohol regularly and cannabis use," the researchers, from University College London, wrote.

"These associations persist into early adulthood, providing evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary 'experimentation' with substance use."

Dr James Williams from UCL Medical School said there has been a general downward trend in smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol among teenagers.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “These risky health behaviours present a large problem in terms of public health as substance use is a risk factor for immediate and long-term health problems, as well as negative non-health outcomes such as poor educational and employment outcomes.

“The outcomes of cannabis use were found to be worsened by early onset and increased frequency of use.

“Understanding the risk factors for adolescent substance use can inform public health policymaking and help target interventions for those in high-risk groups.”

[via The Daily Telegraph]

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Emily Badiozzaman

Emily is a freelance writer for Shortlist.com. She covers breaking news, entertainment, style and lifestyle for the site. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found eating and drinking or thinking about food and drinking. Follow Emily on Twitter: @ebadiozzaman 

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