Thursday, August 25, 2022

New National Findings on US 19-30 Year-Olds' Substance Use

Earlier this week, results came out from one of the major US substance-use surveys, namely the annual Monitoring the Future project conducted by the University of Michigan. The headline of UM's news release was "Marijuana, hallucinogen use at all-time high* among young adults." However, I think some of the alcohol-related findings are also quite interesting. 

Regarding past-year marijuana use (i.e., any use of marijuana in the past year), 30.8% of 19-30 year-olds in the year 1988 had smoked some pot in the past 12 months. This figure dipped into the low-20% range during much of the 1990s, rose slightly into the mid-high 20% range in the 2000s, rose through the 30% range in the 2010s, and reached 42.6% as of 2021 (see Figure 1 of full report).    

Past-year hallucinogen use had a roughly 3%-4% prevalence among 19-30 year-olds consistently from 1988-2017 (Figure 20 of full report). The figure rose to around 5% in 2018 and 2019, before escalating to 7.6% in 2020 and 8.1% in '21. Some of the survey's methodology was changed during COVID-19. One can also envision how stay-at-home orders -- and the potential accompanying boredom -- might have affected substance use. However, any direct linkage between COVID-related factors and recent substance-use increases does not appear to have been established at this time.

One set of analyses compares current full-time college students to same-age noncollege peers (i.e., within four years post-high school) in their substance-use patterns. Results are also broken down by gender, yielding four groups: male college students, male noncollege individuals, female college students, and female noncollege individuals. As shown in the full report, past-year alcohol consumption was most common among college women (77.5% engaging in the behavior), followed by college men (73.4%), noncollege women (71.9%), and noncollege men (65.3%) (see Table 27). 

On a measure of heavier alcohol consumption -- number of occasions within the previous two weeks consuming five or more drinks -- the group with the highest rate was college men (33.9%), followed by college women (28.8%), noncollege women (24.7%), and noncollege men (23.3%) (Table 29). Hence, college continues to be a social context conducive to heavy drinking and differences between young men and women continue to shrink.


*Whether the pun of juxtaposing "marijuana" and "high" was intentional or unintentional, I don't know.

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