Was Spicoli a secret Mensa member? The infamous high school slacker of Fast Times at Ridgemont High personified the dim-bulb marijuana user most of us have come to expect. But researchers are turning that idea on its head, claiming that it’s the smart kids who are actually most likely to be pot users.
A seven-year study at the University College London, found that children who are high academic achievers by the age of 11 are twice as likely to use cannabis, and continue into adulthood. But the researchers say this isn’t just a case of curious experimentation by teens.
The study tracked more than six thousand British students from the age of 11 to 19-20 years old, measuring drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Published in the BMJ Open Journal, the researchers found that “High childhood academic [achievement] at age 11 is associated with a reduced risk of cigarette smoking but an increased risk of drinking alcohol regularly and cannabis use…these associations persist into early adulthood, providing evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary ‘experimentation’ with substance use.”
The lead researcher for the study, Dr. James Williams from UCL Medical School, did point out that there’s been a downward trend in both smoking weed and drinking alcohol among teenagers.
He pointed out that “The outcomes of cannabis use were found to be worsened by early onset and increased frequency of use…these risky health behaviors present a large problem in terms of public health as 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.”
Speaking with the Daily Telegraph, he stated “Understanding the risk factors for adolescent substance use can inform public health policymaking and help target interventions for those in high-risk groups.”
The takeaway: Keep an eye on your little student of the month. She may be carrying more than just books in that backpack.