A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study has found that marijuana use among college students is soaring as alcohol consumption drops.
In its “Monitoring the Future” report, the NIH found that 44 percent of college students reported using marijuana in the past year, a 6-point increase from 2015. Daily marijuana usage ticked up from 5 percent to 8 percent of respondents during that time.
Meanwhile, 56 percent of college students said they consumed alcohol last year, dropping from 62 percent in 2019.
The number of students who reported binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks during an outing, dipped from 32 percent to 24 percent in 2020, according to the report.
Nine percent of college students admitted to psychedelic drugs usage, a 4-point increase from 2019.
The report also highlighted the decline of cigarette smoking, amphetamines, and prescription opioid usage among students.
“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way that young people interact with one another and offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug taking behavior has shifted through these changes,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a statement.
“Moving forward, it will be critical to investigate how and when different substances are used among this young population, and the impact of these shifts over time,” she added.
University of Michigan professor John Schulenberg, the study’s principal investigator, told The Washington Post that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused alcohol consumption to drop among students.
“That’s definitely one 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.”
Thirty-seven states have legalized either the recreational or medical use of marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures data.
The research study was conducted through an online survey of 1,550 young adults from March to November 2020.