Cannabis use among college students reached its highest levels in 35 years in 2020 with 44% of college students saying they consumed cannabis over the past year, according to Monitoring the Future data. The National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research has been annually tracking substance use by college students since 1980.
The 2020 cannabis use rate among college students represents an increase from 35% the study found in 2015. For young adults not in college, annual cannabis use remained at 43%—the same all-time high level recorded by the study in 2018 and 2019.
Daily cannabis use among college students last year was recorded at 8%; compared to 13% of same-age individuals not in college. In 2015, daily cannabis use among college students was 5%, according to the study data.
Psychedelic use also increased among college students from 5% in 2019 to 9% last year, according to the researchers. Annual psychedelic use among non-college respondents did not significantly increase in 2020, remaining consistent at around 10% compared to 8% in 2020.
College students did report lower alcohol-use rates in 2020 when 56% of students reported alcohol use within the past 30 days, compared to 62% in 2019, and 28% reported being drunk in the past 30 days—compared to 35% in 2019. Additionally, 24% of college students reported binge drinking—defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in the past two weeks—in 2020, compared to 32% in 2019.
Among non-college respondents, alcohol use across all measures was stable over the past five years, with no drop in 2020 when 49% of non-college respondents reported alcohol use in the past 30-days, while 22% reported being drunk in the past 30 days, and 24% reported binge drinking.
John Schulenberg, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future panel study noted that it was the “first year where binge drinking was similar between the two groups.”
The researchers also found that tobacco use among college-aged individuals has fallen to at all-time low rates over the past five years with 4% of college students reporting having smoked in the past month along with 13% of non-college respondents.
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