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Early School Success Protects Against Teen, Young Adult Drug Use

Armen Hareyan's picture

Adolescents who do well in school are less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs. But which comes first: drug use or school failure?

Researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) provide an answer in a new book. Patterns of educational success or failure are well established for most adolescents by the time they reach the end of eighth grade, while drug use has only begun to emerge by that time.

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When more opportunities for substance use do emerge, students already doing well in school are less likely to engage in such behaviors, whereas those doing poorly are more likely to do so, the researchers say.

"Grade point averages at the end eighth grade are strongly linked to smoking at that time, and strongly predictive of later smoking," said ISR social psychologist Jerald G. Bachman. "For example, practically none of the students with an A average were daily smokers at age 14, versus more than a quarter of the students with grades of D or lower. By age 22, half of those who had been D students had become daily smokers, compared with about a quarter of those who had been A students in eighth grade."

The researchers tracked a national sample of more than 3,000 young people over an eight-year interval extending from mid-adolescence