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Cannabis Use at All-Time-High in US, Finds NIH Survey

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Aug 21, 2023   
A person smokes a cannabis cigarette.

Image credit: iStock

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Cannabis and hallucinogens are more popular than ever in the US, according to an ongoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) survey.

Among adults aged between 19 and 30, past-year cannabis use was reported by approximately 44% of those surveyed in 2022, an increase from 35% of those surveyed in 2017 and the 28% surveyed in 2012.

Hallucinogens (such as LSD and psilocybin) aren’t quite as sought-after, but their appeal has been slowly rising. Among the same age group, 8% of adults reported past-year use of such substances, a jump from 5% of adults surveyed in 2017 and the 3% surveyed in 2012.

Substance use at all-time-high

The new findings come from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future panel study, which has been tracking the drug use of US adults aged between 19 and 60 since 1975. Approximately 28,500 participants from across the country were surveyed between April 2022 and October 2022 to gather the data for the new report.

The researchers split their participants into two main age groups: those aged between 19 and 30 and those aged between 35 and 50.

The younger adults reported record-high rates of cannabis use. Just over one in ten (11%) said they consumed cannabis daily; this proportion was 8% in 2017 and 6% in 2012.

The older adults displayed a growing interest in cannabis, too. Around 28% said they had consumed cannabis in the past year, a proportion up from 17% in 2017 and 6% in 2012.

In both groups, more adults were likely to report vaping cannabis, too.

Fewer adults claimed to use hallucinogens in the year prior to being surveyed, but the proportions that did are the largest proportions so far recorded.

Among the younger adults, 8% reported past-year use of hallucinogens, higher than the 5% recorded in 2017 and the 3% recorded in 2012. Among the older adults, 4% said they had used such psychedelic substances in the past year, a significant increase on the less than 1% recorded in both 2017 and 2012.

Alcohol use was also up on previous years, but only marginally. Among the younger adults, 84% reported past-year drinking in 2022, compared to 82% in 2017. Among the older adults, 85% claimed to do the same in 2022, a slight increase on the 83% that reported past-year drinking in 2012.

Binge drinking in this older group also reached its recorded levels (29% in 2022), an increase on the 25% recorded in 2017 and the 23% recorded in 2012.

Are there any substances being used less? One might wonder. Yes. According to the survey, past-year use of cigarettes, sedatives, and non-medical use of opioid medications (“narcotics other than heroin”) showed a 10-year decline in both adult age groups.

“Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse – which funded the survey – said in a statement published in August 17.

“Understanding these trends is a first step, and it is crucial that research continues to illuminate how substance use and related health impacts may change over time. We want to ensure that people from the earliest to the latest stages in adulthood are equipped with up-to-date knowledge to help inform decisions related to substance use.”


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