While usage rates of most illicit drugs, tobacco and alcohol are declining among college students, the use of marijuana has significantly increased, according to results from a recently published survey.
“It’s clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation’s college students. And this largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors,” Lloyd Johnston, PhD, research affiliate, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, said in a press release.
Johnston and colleagues analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future study to analyze trends in tobacco, drug and alcohol use among adults aged 19 to 22 years, nationwide.
In 2014, 5.9% of college students reported using marijuana daily, or nearly daily, according to the report. This marks the highest rate of use since 1980, according to the researchers.
Students using marijuana one time or more in the past 30 days increased from 17% in 2006 to 21% in 2014, with use in the previous 12 months increasing from 30% to 34% over the same time period.
In 2006, 55% of high school graduates aged 19 to 22 years saw regular marijuana use as dangerous, while in 2014, only 35% saw regular use as dangerous. The researchers believe these changing views may be the cause of the increase in marijuana use.
Between 2006 and 2014, use of any illicit drugs, including marijuana, fluctuated. In 2006, use of illicit drugs in the previous 12 months was at 34%, and then increased to 41% in 2013. In 2014, use decreased slightly, to 39%. The researchers noted that marijuana was the drug most driving this increase.
Illicit drug use in the previous 12 months that did not include marijuana also increased. In 2014, 21% of college students used illicit drugs, compared to only 15% in 2008, with the main increases being seen in amphetamine and ecstasy use, according to the study.
The use of nonmedical amphetamines almost doubled from 2008 to 2012, and then slightly decreased by 2014, according to a press release. In the release, Johnston suggested that this increase in use could be attributed to students’ desire to improve their studies and test performance.
Despite ecstasy use decreasing between 2004 and 2007, usage rose to 5.8% in 2012 from only 2.2% in 2007. A significant increase in use of cocaine within the past 12 months was also seen, rising from 2.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014.
Use of synthetic marijuana, narcotic drugs and salvia decreased significantly by 2014. The researchers noted that use of bath salts was negligible among college students.
Rates of cigarette use within the past 30 days decreased significantly among college students, dropping from 31% in 1999 to only 13% in 2014. Daily smoking also decreased significantly, from 19% in 1999 to only 5% in 2014.
However, while cigarette rates have dropped significantly, use of hookahs increased significantly to 33% in 2014, up from 26% in 2013.
No significant change in cigar use was seen, according to the researchers.
In 2014, 63% of college students reported having had an alcoholic drink within the past 30 days, a decrease from 67% in 2000 and 82% in 1981.
A decrease was also seen in the proportion of students reporting they had been drunk within the past 30 days, from 48% in 2006 to 43% in 2014.
Rates of binge drinking, as defined by five or more drinks in a row within the previous 2 weeks, decreased from 44% in 1980 to 35% in 2014, among college students.
“Despite the modest improvements in drinking alcohol at college, there are still a sizeable number of students who consume alcohol at particularly dangerous levels,” Johnston said in the release. – by Casey Hower
Johnston LD, et al. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use: 1975-2014: Volume 2, College students and adults aged 19-55. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2014. http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-vol2_2014.pdf. Accessed September, 3, 2015.