Study: Hallucinogen, Marijuana Use Among Young Adults Hits Record in 2021

Past-month vaping levels rebounded after early COVID-19 pandemic drop, analysis results indicate.

Hallucinogen and marijuana use by adults aged 19 to 30 years increased significantly in 2021 compared with 5 and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in the age group since 1988, according to the results of the Monitoring the Future panel study.

“As the drug landscape shifts over time, [these] data [provide a window into the substances and patterns of use favored by young adults. We need to know more about how young adults are using drugs, like marijuana and hallucinogens, and the health effects that result from consuming different potencies and forms of these substances,” Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a statement.

“Understanding how substance use can impact the formative choices in young adulthood is critical to help position the new generations for success,” she said.

For hallucinogen use, investigators found that use in the past year had been relatively stable until 2020 when reports dramatically increased. In 2021, approximately 8% of young adults reported past-year hallucinogen use, which was an all-time high since 1998. In 2016, just 5% reported hallucinogen use, and in 2011, just 3% reported use.

Types of hallucinogens included LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, and PCP.

MDMA was the only hallucinogen for which use significantly decreased within 1 year, as well as the past 5 years, to 3% in 2021 from 5% in both 2016 and 2020.

For marijuana use, the past-year, past-month, and daily use, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the past 30 days, reached the highest levels ever recorded since first monitored in 1988. The proportion of adults who reported that past-year marijuana use reached 43% in 2021, increasing from 34% 5 years ago and 29% 10 years ago.

Daily use also increased during this time, at 11% of young adults in 2021 compared with 8% 5 years ago and 6% 10 years ago.

Additionally, rates of past-month nicotine vaping, which have been increasing among young adults for the past 4 years, continued the upward trend in 2021, despite leveling off in 2020.

The continued increase in 2021 reflects a long-term upward trend at 16% compared with 6% in 2017, when it was first recorded.

Past-month marijuana vaping, which decreased in 2020, rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.

These levels were first recorded in 2017 and reached 6% but doubled to 12% in 2021.

Alcohol remains the most frequently used substance among adults, though in past-year, past-month, and daily use have all decreased over the past decade, the study results showed.

Investigators found that binge drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks, rebounded in 2021 from a historic low in 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to 32% compared with 28% in 2020 and 32% in 2019.

However, high-intensity drinking, defined as 10 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks, has been steadily increasing over the past decade, where it reached the highest level ever recorded in 2021 of 13% compared with 11% when first recorded in 2005.

Past-month, past-year, and daily alcohol use have been declining for the past 10 years. In 2021, 66% of young adults reported alcohol use in the past 30 days, decreasing from 70% in 2016 and 69% in 2011.

The study also showed significant decreases in past-month cigarette use as well as non-medical use of opioid medications in the past year compared with a decade earlier.

The Monitoring the Future study has surveyed substance use behaviors and attitudes among a nationally representative sample of teens annually A panel study component conducts follow-up surveys on a subset of these individuals to track their drug use behaviors across 3 primary time periods: lifetime, past month, and past years.

The study was conducted by investigators at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Data from the 2021 survey were collected online between April 2021 and October 2021.

The panel study also includes drugs use reported by adults aged 35 to 50 years old, college/non-college young adults, and various demographic subgroups.

Reference

Marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached all time-high in 2021. News release. Science Daily. August 22, 2022. Accessed August 29, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220822130344.htm

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