Young People Use More Marijuana, Binge Drink Much Less, Study Finds

A new study has found that the number of young people who say they binge drink fell in 2020, as did the use of opioids, cigarettes and amphetamines. Meanwhile, the number who have tried marijuana has increased.

The report, published by the National Institutes of Health, involved a survey of 1,550 young adults through an online survey between March and November 2020.

The survey found that while use of alcohol dropped, 44 percent of college students reported using cannabis in the past year, a 6 percent increase from 2015. Daily marijuana users increased from 5 to 8 percent over that same time frame.

The highest percentage of respondents who reported daily use of marijuana were males between the ages of 21 and 26. However, past studies have shown that women tend to use marijuana more often for specific reasons.

Binge Drinking Drops Among College Students

NIH has conducted the study, called Monitoring the Future, since 1976. The surveys provide a snapshot of young adults’ use of alcohol, marijuana and other substances.

While the use of cannabis has ticked up, use of alcohol has fallen. The survey found that the number of college-age people who said they consumed alcohol in 2020 dropped to 56 percent from 62 percent in 2019.

They also found that binge drinking had dropped among college-age people, down to 24 percent from 32 percent. This continues a trend that started last decade. Men outnumbered women in use of alcohol, including daily alcohol use, binge drinking, and high-intensity drinking

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Cannabis Use

University of Michigan professor John Schulenberg, who served as the principal investigator on the study, told The Washington Post that the COVID-19 pandemic caused alcohol consumption to drop among students.

“That’s definitely one of the greatest pandemic effects,” Schulenberg said. “We clearly see that young people use alcohol as something to be taken at parties and gatherings. With the pandemic, those weren’t happening, so the alcohol intake and binge drinking dropped.”

The study also found differences between men and women. The survey found men more likely to report marijuana use than women among those between the ages of 19 and 30, including 30-day use, daily use and annual and 30-day marijuana vaping. However, men and women reported about equal rates of use when it came to annual use.

The study found that cannabis use is concentrated in cities, with lower use reported in less densely populated outer suburbs and rural areas.

Researchers also uncovered regional differences. For example, survey respondents reported higher annual use of cannabis in the West and Northeast than in the South and Midwest. People in the West reported the highest rates of daily use of marijuana. That makes sense considering that states in the West have led the country in making marijuana legal, although now it’s starting to reach every region of the country.

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