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"We concluded that schools play an important role in influencing adolescent behavior," said study first author Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.
"Investing in schools offers a tool for improving teen health," Dudovitz added in a university news release. She is also a pediatrician at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital.
In the study, the researchers followed nearly 1,300 low-income students who applied to five high-performing Los Angeles County high schools in the fall of 2013 or 2014. Selection to the schools was based on a random lottery system.
The students were followed through 2017. Those who were offered admission to or attended any of the five schools were less likely to use marijuana, had fewer peers who used drugs, spent more time studying and were less likely to skip school.
The link was particularly strong among boys. By grade 11, boys who attended one of the schools were 50 percent less likely to use marijuana than those who weren't offered admission.
Previous research has found a link between a supportive school environment and students' health behaviors, the researchers noted.
The new study, which didn't prove that high-performing schools foster less drug use, was published Oct. 29 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
-- Robert Preidt
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