College Student Binge Drinking Drops in States Where Marijuana Is Legal

Binge drinking is an issue that has plagued college campuses for decades. Most experts agree that college student binge drinking can lead to a host of other problems, including poorer academic performance. Interestingly, cannabis might help lessen the problem.

A study from Oregon State University has found use of cannabis among college students is up 18% in states where adult-use marijuana is legal, and frequent use has jumped by 17%, according to a press release on the study. Frequent use is defined by the study as those who used marijuana on 20 of the last 30 days.

In places where legalization has been in place for six years, students were 46% more likely to have used marijuana than peers in non-legal states. The study, however, did not find an increase of marijuana use among adolescents.

But a separate study also found that college student binge drinking drops for college students in the states where recreational marijuana is legal.

Details on the Study

Two Oregon State University professors conducted the study: Harold Bae from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and David Kerr from the College of Liberal Arts. They used data from seven states and 135 college campuses within those states. They then compared those numbers to data from 41 states and 454 campuses where recreational marijuana is not legal.

Additionally, the pair analyzed data from 850,000 students through the National Collegiate Health Assessment from 2008 to 2018.

In the press release, Kerr said that “it’s easy to look at the findings and think, ‘Yeah, of course rates would increase.’ But we need to quantify the effects these policy changes are having.”

Relationship Between Cannabis and Binge Drinking

A third researcher from Oregon State University, doctoral candidate Zoe Alley, used the data to determine the relationship between marijuana use and other substances. That study found that among students 21 years old and older, the rate of binge drinking dropped at a greater rate than for students in states where cannabis is not legal.

Over a 10-year period, college students in states with legal recreational marijuana were more than 6% less likely to binge drink than peers in non-legal states.

The findings are important, as college student binge drinking has long been an issue at colleges. Binge drinking is defined as consuming enough alcohol over two hours to raise blood-alcohol levels to more than 0.08, the level at which it is illegal to drive.

For men, this typically means five drinks or more. For women, it typically means four drinks or more, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The study further defined binge drinking to mean having five or more drinks in a single sitting within the previous two weeks.

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