Smart students usually know better than to light up a cigarette. But when it comes to drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana, these same whiz kids are likely to let knowledge take a backseat to “party” time.
New research from the United Kingdom revealed that students who excel in English, math and science appear to be less likely to smoke cigarettes than those with poorer grades. But smart teens are more likely than their less-brainy peers to knock back some drinks or smoke pot.
The study, led by James Williams of the University College London, UCL Medical School, included about 6,000 students, starting at the age of 11. The kids came from nearly 900 schools in England.
Until they reached the age of 19 or 20, all of the study participants regularly completed behavioral questionnaires, which included questions regarding use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.
Academic success was gauged by scores registered on a national British test that measures achievement in English, math and science, the study authors noted.
While still in their early teens, smarter students reported less tobacco use, but drank more alcohol than lower-scoring students. The academically gifted were also more likely to report using pot, but at levels that weren’t deemed statistically significant.
In addition, young teenage students with “average” academic scores were found to be 25 percent more likely to use pot on occasion than students with lower test scores. Average students were also 53 percent more likely to smoke pot “persistently” than their less academically adept peers, the findings showed.
By the time they were in their late teens, smarter kids were more than twice as likely to drink regularly than their less academic peers, though relatively less likely to engage in “hazardous” excessive drinking. Students with good grades were also more likely to drink regularly than those with lower grades, according to the report.
Smart students in their late teens were 50 percent more likely to smoke pot on occasion — and two times as likely to smoke pot persistently — than those with lesser grades, Williams and colleagues found.
The researchers stressed that this study didn’t find a cause-and-effect relationship. It was only designed to find an association between academic performance and substance use.
The study was published online Feb. 22 in the journal BMJ Open.
The investigators pointed out in a journal news release that their findings are similar to those reported in adults.
The results of the new research suggest that patterns of alcohol and drug experimentation seen among early teens don’t appear to be a passing phase.
Instead, the study authors concluded that the findings provide “evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary experimentation with substance use.”
There’s more on alcohol and drug use among teens at the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.