NIH study finds young Americans using more marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs than ever before

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Young adults in America are using marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs at higher rates than ever before, but are taking fewer opioids, according to a National Institutes for Health study published this week. 

The proportion of Americans between the ages of 19 and 30 who reported using marijuana in the past month rose to 29% in 2021, an increase from 21% in 2016 and just 17% in 2011. Daily marijuana use nearly doubled over the past decade, with 11% of young adults reporting marijuana as part of their daily routines in 2021, compared to 6% in 2011. 

The use of hallucinogens – such as psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, mescaline, and peyote – is also on the rise. Last year, 8% of young adults reported using hallucinogens, up from 5% in 2016 and 3% in 2011. MDMA, also known as ecstasy, is the only hallucinogenic drug that declined in use.  

FILE PHOTO: A man smokes a marijuana joint at a party in Seattle, Washington. 

FILE PHOTO: A man smokes a marijuana joint at a party in Seattle, Washington. 
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Opioid use, meanwhile, has been on the decline in recent years. Heroin was used by .2% of young adults in 2021, roughly half of the .4% who reported using heroin in 2011. Prescription opioids like vicodin and oxycontin have also been on the decline among young adults over the last decade. 

“We need to know more about how young adults are using drugs like marijuana and hallucinogens, and the health effects that result from consuming different potencies and forms of these substances,” National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a statement. 

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“Young adults are in a critical life stage and honing their ability to make informed choices,” she continued. “Understanding how substance use can impact the formative choices in young adulthood is critical to help position the new generations for success.”

FILE PHOTO: Psilocybin mushrooms are seen in a grow room in this file photo. 

FILE PHOTO: Psilocybin mushrooms are seen in a grow room in this file photo. 
(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Despite decreased use of opioids among young adults, overdose deaths are hitting records highs, a trend that has been attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. 

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More than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdose deaths last year, the highest number on record and a notable increase from the 93,655 Americans who died in 2020. 

Fentanyl was responsible for 71,238 of last year’s drug overdose deaths, according to the CDC a jump from 57,834 in 2020. 

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