According to the study levels of first-time marijuana use in the college have increasing sharply in the past three years to the highest levels recorded in the past three decades. This monitoring that college students’ use of marijuana in 2018 was at the highest level seen in the past three and a half decades. These results come from the annual Monitoring the Future study, which has been tracking substance use among young adults for the past 36 years.
In addition, vaping of marijuana and of nicotine each doubled for college students between 2017 and 2018. In 2018, 43% of full-time college students aged 19-22 reported using marijuana at least once in the prior 12 months (annual prevalence). The five-year trend, from 2013 to 2018, increased a statistically significant 7% points. Twenty-five percent reported using at least once in the prior 30 days (30-day prevalence), showing a significant increase over the past five years.
First time marijuana use
Both of these prevalence levels are at historic highs since 1983, when they were 45% and 26%, respectively. Increasing levels of first-time marijuana use among young adults have been concentrating among college students; and no increases have been seen among their age peers not in college. Same-age high school graduates who are not full-time college students show a similar upward trend over time. In 2018, their annual prevalence was 43% and 30-day prevalence was 27%, the highest levels since the 1980s.
Thirty-day prevalence of vaping marijuana also increased for college students from 5.2% in 2017 to 10.9% in 2018; a significant 5.7% point increase. Among noncollege respondents, 30-day prevalence was level at 8% in 2017 and 2018. This doubling in vaping marijuana among college students; is one of the greatest one-year proportional increases we have seen among the multitude of substances we measure since the study began over 40 years ago.
Daily or near daily use of marijuana defining as having used on 20 or more; occasions in the prior 30 days was at 5.8% in 2018 for college students. It has been between 4% and 6% in the past five years. Among same-age noncollege youth, it was 11.1%, nearly double the level for college youth. The gap between college and noncollege youth has widened in recent years. Daily marijuana use, especially among noncollege youth, is worrisome.
The brain is still growing in the early 20s, and as the Surgeon General just reported; the scientific evidence indicates that heavy marijuana use can be detrimental to cognitive functioning and mental health. There likely are multiple reasons for the continuing increase in marijuana use among college students and noncollege youth, according to the researchers. One possible reason is the ongoing decline in perceptions of risk of harm from regular marijuana use.