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Young adults are using marijuana and hallucinogens at the highest rates on record

Marijuana plants for the adult recreational market are seen in a greenhouse at Hepworth Farms in Milton, N.Y., Friday, July 15, 2022.
Mary Altaffer
/
AP
Marijuana plants for the adult recreational market are seen in a greenhouse at Hepworth Farms in Milton, N.Y., Friday, July 15, 2022.

Young adults are using more weed and hallucinogens than ever.

The amount of people from ages 19 to 30 who reported using one or the other are at the highest rates since 1988, when the National Institutes of Health first began the survey.

"Young adults are in a critical life stage and honing their ability to make informed choices," said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a NIH subsidiary. "Understanding how substance use can impact the formative choices in young adulthood is critical to help position the new generations for success."

The latest data was collected from April 2021 through October 2021.

Marijuana use

The amount of young adults who said in 2021 that they used marijuana in the past year (43%), the past month (29%) or daily (11%) were at the highest levels ever recorded.

Daily use — defined in the study as 20 or more times in 30 days — was up from 8% in 2016.

The amount of young adults who said they used a marijuana vape in the past month reached pre-pandemic levels, after dropping off in 2020. It doubled from 6% in 2017 to 12% in 2021.

Hallucinogen use

The percentages of young people who said they used hallucinogens in the past year had been fairly consistent for the past few decades, until 2020 when rates of use began spiking.

In 2021, 8% of young adults said they have used a hallucinogen in the past year, the highest proportion since the survey began in 1988.

Reported hallucinogens included LSD, mescaline, peyote, shrooms, PCP and MDMA (aka molly or ecstasy).

Only use of MDMA declined has decreased, from 5% in 2020 to 3% in 2021.

Other substances

Alcohol was the most popular substance in the study, though rates of daily drinking have decreased in the past 10 years.

But binge drinking — which the organization defines as having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks — is back on the rise after hitting a historic low in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

High-intensity drinking — having 10 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks — has been consistently rising in the last decade, and in 2021, was at its highest level since 2005.

Meanwhile, use of nicotine vapes are still on the rise among young people — its prevalence almost tripled from 6% in 2017, when it was first measured, to 16% in 2021.

The use of nicotine cigarettes and opioids has been on the decline in the past decade.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ayana Archie