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A study of more than six thousand twins finds a link between substance abuse early in life, and a decreased likelihood of finishing college.

The study, which included male twins who served in the military during the Vietnam era, found those who began drinking or using drugs early in their teen years, or who became dependent on alcohol, marijuana or nicotine during those years, were less likely to finish college than those who did not use drugs or alcohol until later in life, and did not become dependent.

The researchers say the study provides further evidence that it is important to continue public health efforts to reduce underage drinking, smoking and use of drugs, KMOX reports.

“We can’t say that substance dependence or early substance use causes lower educational achievement, but we do see a strong association,” lead author Julia D. Grant, PhD of Washington University in St. Louis said in a news release. “Even after we statistically controlled for the genes and the environmental factors that twins share, we found a relationship between substance use and educational achievement.”

The findings appear in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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