Nav: Home

Brainy teens may be less likely to smoke, but more likely to drink and use cannabis

February 22, 2017

Brainy teens may be less likely to smoke, but more likely to drink alcohol and use cannabis, than their less academically gifted peers, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

These patterns persist into adulthood, and would seem to refute the notion that academic prowess is associated with a greater tendency to 'experiment' for a brief period, suggest the researchers.

Smoking, drinking, and cannabis use are fairly common among teenagers. And the evidence suggests that these behaviours boost the risk of immediate and longer term health problems.

But the data on potential links between cleverness and substance use are somewhat mixed, and no study has tracked patterns with use of all three substances from early adolescence into early adulthood.

In a bid to rectify this, the researchers used data from a representative sample of more than 6000 11 year olds from 838 state, and 52 fee-paying, schools across England.

The teens' use of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis, obtained through questionnaire responses, was regularly tracked until they reached the ages of 19-20.

Depending on their answers, use of tobacco and alcohol was categorised as persistent and regular; occasional and regular; and none. Alcohol use was further quantified by the number of times respondents had got drunk--with more than 52 times in a year categorised as hazardous drinking.

Cannabis use was categorised as early (13-17) or late (18-20) and as occasional or persistent.

Academic prowess was defined by results achieved in Key Stage 2, a national test taken at the age of 11, which assesses ability in English, maths, and science.

During their early teens, brainy pupils were less likely to smoke cigarettes than their less academically gifted peers, after taking account of potentially influential factors. And they were more likely to say they drank alcohol during this period too.

They were also more likely to say they used cannabis, but this wasn't statistically significant. But those of average academic ability were 25% more likely to use cannabis occasionally and 53% more likely to use it persistently than those who were not as academically gifted.

During their late teens, brainy pupils were more than twice as likely to drink alcohol regularly and persistently than those who were not as clever. These patterns were similar, but weaker, when those of average and low academic abilities were compared.

But academic prowess was associated with a lower risk of hazardous drinking.

As for the use of cannabis, clever pupils were 50% more likely to use this substance occasionally and nearly twice as likely to use persistently than those who weren't as clever. Similar patterns were seen for those of average academic ability.

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

And the results may not be applicable to pupils in fee-paying schools as a full set of data was only available for a third of the teens attending these schools, say the researchers.

They highlight other caveats, including the lack of detail on quantities of substances typically consumed, and the absence of data on cigarette smoking after the age of 16.

Nevertheless, they say: "Our finding that adolescents with high academic ability are less likely to smoke but more likely to drink alcohol regularly and use cannabis is broadly consistent with the evidence base on adults."

And they offer various possible explanations, including the link between braininess and openness to experience, and a more affluent/highly educated family background, which may make it easier to get hold of alcohol, for example.

But they conclude, the fact that alcohol and cannabis use among brainy pupils persisted into early adulthood, provides "evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary experimentation with substance use."
-end-
Research: Childhood academic ability in relation to cigarette, alcohol and cannabis use from adolescence into early adulthood: Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England (LSYPE) http://bmjopen.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012989

About the journal

BMJ Open is BMJ's first online general medical journal dedicated solely to publishing open access research. All its articles, supplementary files, and peer reviewers' reports are fully and openly available online, along with an increasing number of linked raw data sets in the Dryad repository. http://bmjopen.bmj.com

BMJ

Related Alcohol Articles:

This is your brain on alcohol (video)
It's almost time to ring in 2017. And since most New Year's celebrations include alcohol, Reactions' latest episode explains the chemistry behind its effects -- drunkenness, frequent bathroom breaks and occasionally poor decision-making.
Heavy alcohol use changes adolescents' brain
Heavy alcohol use during adolescence alters the development of brain, according to a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital.
Maryland's 2011 alcohol sales tax reduced alcohol sales, study suggests
Maryland's 2011 increase in the alcohol sales tax appears to have led to fewer purchases of beer, wine and liquor in the state, suggesting reduced alcohol use, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research indicates.
Alcohol related deaths are likely to increase after cuts in alcohol taxation
Alcohol related deaths are most likely set to increase in England as incomes outstrip rises in taxation, argue experts in The BMJ today.
Alcohol aromatherapy eases nausea in the ER
Nauseated patients in the emergency department who sniffed pads saturated with isopropyl alcohol were twice as likely to obtain relief from their symptoms as nauseated patients who sniffed pads saturated with saline solution, according to a study published online today in Annals of Emergency Medicine ('Isopropyl Alcohol Nasal Inhalation for Nausea in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Controlled Trial').
Alcohol ads linked to teen alcohol brand choices
Overall exposure to brand-specific alcohol advertising is a significant predictor of underage youth alcohol brand consumption, with youth ages 13 to 20 more than five times more likely to consume brands that advertise on national television and 36 percent more likely to consume brands that advertise in national magazines compared to brands that don't advertise in these media.
Should women consume alcohol during pregnancy?
In The BMJ this week, experts discuss the evidence and current guidelines on the controversial topic of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The Lancet: Harmful alcohol use linked with increased risk of alcohol-related cancers and injury
A new study of alcohol use in countries of all income levels shows that current use increases the risk of alcohol-related cancers and injury, with no reduction in risk of mortality or cardiovascular disease overall.
Web interventions for alcohol misuse
A systematic evidence review published in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that low-intensity electronic interventions may slightly reduce alcohol consumption among adults and college students, but may be ineffective for reducing binge-drinking frequency and the negative social consequences associated with alcohol misuse.
Marijuana users substitute alcohol at 21
A recent study looked at marijuana and alcohol use in people between the ages of 18 and 24.

Related Alcohol Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".