A new study suggests that higher achieving children are twice as likely to try cannabis and alcohol in their teenage years.
The study, conducted by the University College London, England, analysed data from over 6000 young people from both state and private schools.
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.
They found that students who attained high academic achievement at the age of 11 were 50% more likely to use cannabis occasionally and almost twice as likely to use it consistently.
Students who achieved better grades at age 11 were also more likely to regularly drink alcohol in their late teens, yet less likely to smoke cigarettes than their less-gifted peers.
When looking at reasons why smarter children were more likely to use cannabis in their teenage years, it was suggested that it might be due to the fact that middle-class families are more likely to inform their children about the health issues associated with smoking cigarettes.
It was also theorised that clever children are more curious and have a stronger desire to be accepted by older peers, which in turn leads them to experiment with cannabis and alcohol in later years.
The study was published in The BMJ Open and found that these patterns continued into early adulthood.
“These associations persist into early adulthood, providing evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary ‘experimentation’ with substance use,” wrote the researchers.
More research is needed, but it highly suggests the stereotype that cannabis is the preserve of the underachiever is false.