Historic…high: Survey shows marijuana use increasing with college-aged adults

Perhaps not a surprise considering our collective stress levels and increased marijuana legalization in the country, but a new study shows marijuana use hit an historic high with college-aged adults in 2020.

The National Institutes of Health’s 2020 “Monitoring the Future” panel study found marijuana use in 2020 was at the highest levels since the 1980s.

The survey, based on the responses from 1,550 young adults between March 20, 2020 and Nov. 30, 2020, revealed that 44 percent reported using marijuana at some point in 2020. In 2015, that number was 38 percent. 

Forty-three percent of college-aged adults who don’t attend college also reported using cannabis; that number stayed consistent from prior years. 

The survey also showed that eight percent of college students reported using marijuana on a daily or near daily basis in 2020, compared to nearly five percent in 2015. Thirteen percent of same-age adults not in college said they used cannabis on a daily or near-daily basis, also consistent with recent years.

The survey also noted the use of hallucinogens like LSD and “magic” mushrooms jumped from five percent in 2019 to nine percent in 2020. 

That said, the survey noted that the level of vaping marijuana and vaping nicotine leveled off among college-aged adults after highs in 2017 and 2019, and prescription opioid abuse among that demographic and those not in college continued a five-year decline in 2020.

“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,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.