Vaping, marijuana use in college-age adults up, other drug use down

According to a new survey, vaping marijuana and nicotine rose sharply over the past three years for college-aged adults, even while the use of other drugs decreased.

Results from the 2019 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of 19- to 22-year-old adults found that 14 percent of college students said they had vaped marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to only 5.2 percent in 2017. Similarly, 17 percent of those not attending college said they had vaped marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to 7.8 percent in 2017.

When it came to vaping nicotine, 22 percent of college students said they had vaped in the last month, compared to 6.1 percent in 2017. In those not in college, 18 percent said they had vaped nicotine in the last month, compared to 7.9 percent in 2017.

The increases represent the largest increases in use for any substance in the study’s 45-year history.

“We are seeing an increasingly concerning trend,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow. “Many young people may view vaping and cannabis use as ‘safer,’ but the reality is that nicotine is highly addictive, and cannabis can also be addictive, particularly in younger adults for whom the brain is still developing.”

The study found that marijuana use among 19- to 22-year-olds – regardless of college attendance – continued to be high. In 2018, 43 percent of the group reported using marijuana in the past year, which was unchanged in 2019. In those not attending college, however, 15 percent reported daily, or near-daily, use of marijuana, compared to only 5.9 percent of college students.

Some good news came out of the study, though. The study found that fewer 19- to 22-year-olds were smoking cigarettes (7.9 percent of college students and 16 percent of non-college students), prescription opioid misuse (1.5 percent of college students and 3.3 percent of those not attending college, down from 4.8 and 7.7 percent, respectively, in 2014), and amphetamine use (8.1 percent of college students and 5.9 percent of non-college students). Binge drinking remained unchanged in both groups.

MTF is an ongoing study of substance use trends in adolescents and adults. Conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the study has been tracking substance use amongst young adults since 1980.

Liz Carey

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