Use of marijuana, hallucinogens soared to new high in 2021, NIH says

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Use of marijuana and hallucinogens among young adults in the United States reached an all-time high in 2021, the National Institutes of Health reported Monday. Photo by Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Use of marijuana and hallucinogens among young adults in the United States reached an all-time high in 2021, the National Institutes of Health reported Monday.

Use of these drugs, as self-reported by adults aged 19 to 30 years old, increased significantly last year compared to five and 10 years ago — with marijuana use reaching its highest level in this age group since these trends were first monitored in 1988.

Overall, 43% of young adults reported past-year marijuana use in 2021, up from 34% in 2016 and 29% in 2011, a news release said. Daily pot use also climbed to involve 11% of young adults in 2021, up from 8% in 2016 and 6% in 2011.

In 2021, 8% of young adults reported past-year hallucinogen use: an all-time high since the category was first surveyed in 1988 — and up from 5% in 2016 and 3% in 2011. Types of hallucinogens reported by participants included LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, “shrooms” or psilocybin and PCP, the release said.

That’s according to the latest Monitoring the Future panel study. Researchers have been surveying substance use annually since 1975 among a nationally representative sample of teens, following up to track participants’ drug use through adulthood.

The latest data also show that rates of nicotine vaping in the past month, which have gradually increased in young adults over the past four years, continued their general upward trend to 16% in 2021 after leveling off in 2020. That compares to a 6% rate of nicotine vaping in 2017, when the practice was first monitored.

And marijuana vaping in the past month, which had significantly fallen in 2020, rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in 2021: doubling to 12% in 2021 from 6% in 2017.

Alcohol remains the most used substance among adults in the study, though rates of past-year, past-month and daily drinking have been decreasing over the last decade.

Binge drinking — of five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks — rebounded in 2021 from a historic low in 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And “high-intensity” drinking — having 10 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks — has been steadily increasing over the past decade. In 2021, it reached its highest level ever recorded since first measured in 2005, a news release said.

“As the drug landscape shifts over time, this data provides a window into the substances and patterns of use favored by young adults. 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 the release.

The study’s participants self-reported their drug use across three primary time periods: lifetime, past year and past month. The research is conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, and funded by NIDA.

Data for the 2021 survey were collected online from April through October 2021.

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