Substance use and abuse are serious matters. A recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study shows hallucinogens, marijuana use, and binge drinking have hit an all-time high among adults aged 35 to 50. Vaping has also risen significantly.
The Study on Marijuana Use, Hallucinogens, and Binge Drinking
A Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, showed hallucinogen and marijuana use hit an all-time high in 2022 among adults 35 to 50 years old. It also found historic highs in marijuana and nicotine vaping over the past five years in adults 19 to 30 years old.
Binge drinking has generally declined over the past 10 years. But the study finds an increase among adults 35 to 50 accounting for the highest numbers ever in this age group. It shows a substantial increase over the past year, the past five years, and the past ten years.
“Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., and NIDA director. “Understanding these trends is a first step, and research must continue to illuminate how substance use and related health impacts may change over time. We want to ensure that people from the earliest to latest stages in adulthood are equipped with up-to-date knowledge to help inform decisions related to substance use.”
The MTF study has been active since 1975. The organization conducts annual surveys on participants starting in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades. It then tracks these individual’s drug use through adulthood collecting data every other year until age 30. It continues studying participants every five years after age 30 with the oldest participants now in their 60s.
Key Findings of the Study on Marijuana Use, Hallucinogens, and Binge Drinking
Past year daily marijuana use hit an all-time high in participants 19 to 30. 44% of those surveyed in 2022 reported past-year use as compared to 35% in 2017 and 38% in 2012. Daily marijuana use was at 11% as compared to 8% five years ago in 2017, and 6% ten years ago in 2012.
Historic highs were also reported in adults 35 to 55. 28% reported past-year marijuana use in 2022 as compared to 25% in 2021, 17% in 2017, and 13% in 2012.
Vaping marijuana use was also on the rise. 21% of adults 19 to 30 years old vaped in 2022 accounting for the highest levels since the measure was added to the study in 2017. 12% of participants reported vaping marijuana when it first appeared in the study.
Statistics have increased to 19% in 2021 and 24% in 2022 doubling initial numbers.
Vaping is relatively steady among participants aged 35 to 50. 9% report vaping marijuana, a statistic that has not budged since 2019. 7% reported vaping nicotine in 2022. The same percentage reported when the measure was initially added.
Hallucinogen use has risen among adults aged 19 to 30 with 8% reporting past-year use in 2022, significantly higher than 2017’s 5% and 2012’s 3%. The types of hallucinogens used included MDMA, peyote, mescaline, mushrooms, LSD, and psilocybin. Most adults that reported past year use used a hallucinogen other than LSD.
Past year hallucinogen use also reached historic highs among adults aged 35 to 50. 4% of adults in this age group reported using hallucinogens in 2022 as compared to 2% in 2021. In 2012 and 2017, fewer than 1% of adults 35 to 50 reported hallucinogen use.
Rates of alcohol use are on a downward trend among adults 19 to 30 years old, but increased slightly in 2022. They rose to 84% as compared to 2017’s 82%.
Alcohol use has increased slowly over the past 10 years. 83% reported past-year use in 2012. 85% reported past-year use in 2022.
Binge drinking reached its highest levels yet for this age group. 29% of participants aged 35 to 50 reported binge drinking in the past year showing an increase from 26% in 2021, 25% in 2017, and 23% in 2012.
The study also showed a 10-year decrease in the past year’s cigarette, sedative, and non-medical opioid use (other than heroin). Past year amphetamine use decreased among 19 to 30-year-olds and increased among 35 to 50-year-olds. The report also showed differentiation in college and non-college students and other demographics.
“The value of surveys such as MTF is to show us how drug use trends evolve over decades and across development- from adolescence through adulthood,” said Megan Patrick, Ph.D., research professor at the University of Michigan and principal investigator of the MTF panel study. “Behaviors and public perception of drug use can shift rapidly based on drug availability and other factors. It’s important to track this so that public health professionals and communities can be prepared to respond.”
Reasons for the Increases
Experts have weighed in on what accounts for the increases in drug use among adults.
The increase in marijuana use comes as no surprise. Legalization measures have made it more accessible. It is also becoming widely recognized for the health benefits it provides.
The same can be said of hallucinogens. Experts tout the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs including their potential to relieve anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Several states are working on legislation to legalize hallucinogens to make them more accessible.
The increase in drinking comes as a shock. The rising numbers stand in the face of countless reports that focus on alcohol’s harmful effects. There are also reports that marijuana use is a common healthier alcohol alternative.
Experts also point to the residual effects of the pandemic. The isolation and anxiety the pandemic caused led many people to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Some individuals may have developed habits that account for an increase in users.