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Marijuana & hallucinogen use at all-time high among young adults, teen drug use at all-time low
Jill Connelly/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Marijuana & hallucinogen use at all-time high among young adults, teen drug use at all-time low

Drug use fell significantly among teenagers last year while rising among young adults, according to surveys out of the University of Michigan. The drop in teenage drug use was the largest ever recorded in the 46 years since the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Study began surveying high school students.

The surveys show that "marijuana and hallucinogen use in the past year reported by young adults 19 to 30 years old increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in this age group since 1988."

Researchers also found that “the percentage of youth who had ever used any illicit drug other than marijuana decreased by more than 25% in 2021. Specifically, in 12th grade this percentage was 27% smaller in comparison to the previous year, in 10th grade the decline was 31%, and in 8th grade the drop was 30%.”

A research team of professors at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has conducted annual surveys of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 since 1975. The survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has included young adults 19 to 30 years old since 1988. Participants self-report their drug use behaviors across three time periods — lifetime, past year (12 months), and past month (30 days).

Richard Miech, the principal investigator of the study and a research professor at the Institute for Social Research, attributed those drops to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Among the many disruptions adolescents have experienced as a result of the pandemic are disruptions in their ability to get drugs, disruptions in their ability to use drugs outside of parental supervision, and disruptions in peer groups that encourage drug use," Miech said. "As a result, this year, it appears that a sizable portion of adolescents have not used drugs who otherwise may have done so."

Reason disputes this proposed causation, noting that “the pandemic does not explain why past-month psychedelic use rose slightly or remained about the same among teenagers in 2020, when more schools were closed than in 2021. Nor does it explain the long-term decline in adolescent marijuana use.”

The MTF study also collected data on drug use reported by adults 35 to 50 years old, college/non-college young adults, and various other demographic groups.

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