Academic ability linked to cannabis use in teenage years

Children who perform well at school at age 11 are more likely to use cannabis during their late teenage years compared to those who show less academic promise, according to findings from Next Steps.

Researchers from University College London analysed information on more than 6,000 study members.

Those of you who achieved high scores in national assessments in English, Maths and Science (which you took in Year 6) were more likely to use cannabis in your late teens than lower-scoring pupils.

High achievers were also more than twice as likely to drink alcohol regularly between the ages of 18 and 20, compared to those with low scores. In fact, they drank more from the age of 14.

Nevertheless, the most academically able members of your generation were less likely to smoke cigarettes than other pupils in early adolescence. You were not asked about your smoking habits between the ages of 18 and 20.

Previous studies have suggested that greater substance use among bright adolescents might be due to their tendency to be open to new experiences, such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol. However, these new findings cast doubt on this theory, as the link between academic ability and risky behaviours continued beyond the initial experimentation.

The report said: “Reducing harmful substance use in this age group is important, no matter the level of academic ability, given the immediate risks to health and the longer-term consequences.”