Just discovered your teenager is drinking or smoking pot? Before you freak out, check their most recent report card. James Williams of University College London followed a representative sample of 6,059 English adolescents from ages 13 to 20, and some surprising patterns emerged. He found youngsters with higher levels of academic ability at age 11 were more than twice as likely as their peers to drink alcohol "regularly, occasionally, or persistently" later in adolescence. In addition, 11-year-olds who demonstrated medium or high ability were more likely to smoke cannabis at ages 18 to 20. The reasons aren't clear, Williams reports in the journal BMJ Open. Smarter kids may be more open to experimentation, or perhaps they have older friends who have greater access to drugs. Adding to the mixed picture: Smarter kids were less likely than their peers to smoke tobacco. Perhaps the better time to worry is when your ninth-grader comes home with a pack of Newports.
A version of this story originally appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Pacific Standard.