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US College Students’ Daily Marijuana Use Increased: Study

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New data shows that marijuana use among college students in the US increased last year, hitting a new record and continuing an upward trend in the past five years. 

The University of Michigan (UM) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported the findings in their annual “Monitoring the Future” study, where college students’ daily consumption of marijuana has risen to its highest point since 1983. 

USA Today disclosed that, according to the study, 44 percent of college students admitted to consistently using marijuana in 2020. The numbers indicate a six percent increase over data gathered in 2015. 

Daily marijuana use was defined as using the substance on at least 20 occasions in the past month. In 2020, use rose 7.9 percent among full-time college students aged 19 to 22. Additionally, the annual intake of hallucinogens such as LSD and psychedelic mushrooms also increased.  

“Almost 1 in 12 college students used marijuana on a daily basis, and we know from our research and that of others that heavy marijuana use is associated with poor academic performance and dropping out of college,” said John Schulenberg, the study’s lead investigator. 

“For the almost 1 in 7 young adults aged 19-22 not in college who are daily marijuana users, getting a foothold on the roles and responsibilities of adulthood may be all the more difficult. Of course, the landscape of cannabis use is changing, so continued research is needed regarding negative consequences of heavy use,” he added.

Pandemic Effect on Drug Use

Heightened usage can be attributed to the pandemic and how it forced college students to transition to remote learning while navigating a health crisis. Plus, marijuana is gradually becoming normalized as more states continue to legalize the drug. 

“This continued increase in the use of hallucinogens corresponds with the decrease in the perception that hallucinogens are harmful,” Schulenberg said. “For example, the perception that experimental use of LSD carries great harm was at only 28% in 2020 among 19-to-22-year-olds. This is an all-time low over the past four decades and far below the highest level of 50% in 1989.”

NIDA Director Nora Volkow also pointed out that recent challenges have changed how college students interact. But she remains unsure whether or not these changes in drug perception and use will last.

“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,” Volkow said in a news release.

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