High Achieving Students More Likely to Smoke Marijuana and Drink Alcohol, Says New Study

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Source: “Do Smart Students Smoke More Pot?,” youtube.com, Mar. 29, 2017

A nine-year study by researchers at the University College of London has found an association between higher student achievement and the likelihood of teen marijuana and alcohol consumption. The study also found that higher achieving students were less likely to smoke cigarettes in early adolescence.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, tracked the behaviors of over 6,000 students in England aged 13-20 for seven years. According to the study, students aged 13-17 with high academic achievement were “less likely to smoke cigarettes” and more likely to “drink alcohol regularly.” The higher performing students also showed a greater likelihood of using marijuana.

For older students aged 18-20, the association between greater marijuana and alcohol use and higher academic achievement persisted. Students with high academic achievement were “more than twice as likely to drink alcohol regularly and persistently,” and to use cannabis “occasionally” and “persistently.” According to a press release from BMJ Open, the higher achieving students were 50% more likely to use marijuana than their less academically successful peers.

According to the authors of the study, the reasons for these associations are not fully understood. However, the study did propose possible explanations. One explanation proposed that individuals with higher cognitive ability are known to be associated with the personality trait of “openness to experience,” and may be more open to experimentation with marijuana and alcohol. Another explanation was that smarter adolescents are more likely to associate with older peers, which may facilitate their access to cannabis and alcohol.

Despite the findings of the study, some researchers continue to warn that teen marijuana use should be discouraged. According to a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “adolescents who use marijuana regularly can develop serious mental health disorders such as addiction, depression and psychosis. Marijuana causes dulled sensory awareness, motor control, coordination, judgment and reaction time, all of which can cause accidents involving teens who drive. Marijuana can impair lung function. It also causes decreased short-term memory and concentration, attention span and problem-solving skills, which can interfere with learning.”

In the United States, 28 states and DC have legalized medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.


American Academy of Pediatrics, “Nation’s Pediatricians Warn of Risks to Youths from Loosening Marijuana Laws,” aap.org, Feb. 27, 2017

BMJ Open, “Brainy Teens May Be Less Likely to Smoke, But More Likely to Drink and Use Cannabis,” bmjopen.bmj.com, Feb. 22, 2017

Gigen Mammoser, “Smart Kids Smoke Weed,” tonic.vice.com, Feb. 23, 2017

Melia Robinson, “It’s 2017: Here’s Where You Can Legally Smoke Weed Now,” businessinsider.com, Jan. 8, 2017

Susan Scutti, “Top Students More Likely to Smoke Pot, Drink Alcohol, Study Says,” cnn.com, Feb. 22, 2017

James Williams and Gareth Hagger-Johnson, “Childhood Academic Ability in Relation to Cigarette, Alcohol and Cannabis Use from Adolescence into Early Adulthood: Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE),” bmjopen.bmj.com, Feb. 22, 2017