YOUNG VOICES

Clever Children 'Twice As Likely' To Smoke Cannabis As Teenagers Than Less-Gifted Peers

And here's why.

23/02/2017 11:52 GMT

Smart children are twice as likely to smoke cannabis as teenagers than their less academic peers, new research has revealed. 

Pupils who do well at school aged 11 also have a higher chance of drinking alcohol as they grow up, according to a study of 6,059 young people across England. 

But, despite this, researchers from University College London found that these students are less likely to smoke cigarettes. 

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'Intelligent' 11-year-olds are twice as likely to smoke cannabis than their less-able friends, researchers have found 

Academics have offered a number of possible reasons behind these findings.

The study, which was published in BMJ Open, reads: “Although cognitive ability is broadly associated with better life chances and healthier life choices, cognitive ability is positively correlated with the personality trait ‘openness to experience’ which might encourage high-ability children to experiment with alcohol or cannabis.” 

Researchers also suggested the possibility that intelligent young people are more honest when asked about substance use and that more able teens often have older friends, who in turn have greater access to cannabis. 

When considering why clever children have a lower chance of smoking cigarettes, they propose that academic adults are more likely to listen to public health advice on the matter, which they then pass on to their children. 

In the nine year study, information was gathered about children’s academic achievement at the age of 11.

Their “health behaviours” - such as smoking and drinking - were then documented in early adolescence between the ages of 13 and 17, then again during late adolescence, from 18 to 20 years old.   

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The study has refuted claims that clever young people are more likely to 'experiment' with substances 

Researchers found that during their early teens, children considered bright aged 11 were more likely to say they drank alcohol. By late adolescence, they were twice as likely to drink “regularly and persistently”. 

These kids were also 50% more likely to smoke cannabis occasionally than their less academic friends and twice as likely to use it persistently. 

Researchers found that these patterns persisted into adulthood - refuting the notion that clever young people are more likely to temporarily “experiment” with these substances.  

Dr James Williams at UCL Medical School told the Telegraph that these “risky” health behaviours present “a large problem in terms of public health”. 

“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,” he said. 

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

However, he added that teenagers are now less likely to smoke cannabis or drink alcohol than they have been in the past.