U-M Study: Marijuana Usage Among Young Adults In U.S. At Four-Decade High

The study found 43% of 19-to-22 year-olds use marijuana

WWJ News
September 15, 2020 - 1:51 pm
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(WWJ) A new University of Michigan study shows more young adults are vaping marijuana now than any time in the past four decades.

The annual Monitoring The Future (MTF) Panel Study shows the percentage of young adults (19 to 22 years old) who vaped marijuana at least once in a month’s time has jumped from 5% in 2017 to 14% in 2019 among full-time college students.

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It has more than doubled from 8% in 2017 to 17% in 2019 among young adults not in college, according to the study.

The study revealed marijuana use among both groups is currently at 43%, the highest it has been since the early eighties.

Principal investigator of the study, John Schulenberg, said this is an extremely “worrisome” trend, considering the health risks that come with vaping and smoking, such as severe complications from COVID-19 and the addictive properties of the substances.

"Daily marijuana use is a clear health risk," Schulenberg said in the release. "The brain is still growing in the early 20s, and as the surgeon general recently reported, the scientific evidence indicates that heavy marijuana use can be detrimental to cognitive functioning and mental health.”

Schulenberg said research shows there is a high correlation between marijuana usage and dropping out of college, or poor academic performance.

"This doubling to tripling of prevalence of vaping marijuana and vaping nicotine over just two years are among the largest increases in MTF history for any substance since the study began over 40 years ago," Schulenberg said. 

He said one in five 19-to-22 year-olds vaped nicotine in 2019.

On the other hand; illegal drug use is on the decline, according to the report. The study revealed 17% of young adults took illegal drugs in 2019, down from an all-time high in 2014. That includes college and non-college students.

Cigarette use is also becoming less common. Researchers found nearly 8% of college students smoked a cigarette at least once in a month's time in 2019, nearly an all-time low. It hit an all-time low of 16% for the same age group not in college.

The results were collected nationwide from spring of 2019 to fall 2019, and do not reflect the lifestyle changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers expect the stress of the lockdown, loss of employment and “housing challenges” from the pandemic will have a significant impact on these numbers.

The study was conducted in collaboration with The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has been tracking drug usage in young adults since the early eighties.

Other results of the study, according to the report:

“-Two of the many illicit substances measured—cocaine and LSD—have shown recent uneven increases among college students and youth not in college; however, the use of both of these substances remains relatively low, with annual prevalence of 6% or lower in 2019. 

-The 2019 annual prevalence of nonmedical use of prescription narcotic drugs other than heroin, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, showed a significant five-year decline for 19-to-22-year-olds, reaching the lowest levels reported since the late 1990s. Between 2014 and 2019, it dropped from 4.8% to 1.5% for college students, and from 7.7% to 3.3% for same-aged youth not in college.

-The annual prevalence of amphetamines continued to decline somewhat for college students to 8.1% in 2019 and to 5.9% for same-aged youth not in college. In contrast to what is true for most other illicit drugs, nonmedical amphetamine use has been higher among college students in recent years.

-Several other illicit drugs with relatively low prevalence have shown some leveling or uneven change in recent years among college students and same-aged youth not in college, including MDMA (ecstasy, Molly) and nonmedical use of sedatives (barbiturates) and tranquilizers; annual prevalence of each was 4% or lower in 2019 among 19-to-22-year-olds.

- Alcohol use has been declining for several years among college students and same-aged youth not in college, although it continues to remain their drug of choice, especially among college students. In 2019, binge drinking—defined as having five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks—was 33% for college students and 22% for youth not in college. Prevalence of having 10 or more drinks in the past two weeks (a measure of high-intensity drinking) has been fairly level for college students and youth not in college (it was 11% for both in years 2015-2019 combined).”