September 17th, 2018

Daily Marijuana Use by Young Adults: The College Divide

Drug use by college studentsSpeculation abounds about the fallout that will result from the liberalization of cannabis laws by many states. Reliable facts are especially welcome at times like this; fortunately, the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future project is readily accessible to us all with information about daily marijuana use.

The most striking finding of its recent report on 2017 substance use by youth ages 19 to 22 is the growing divergence in near daily marijuana use (at least 20 of 30 days). While this frequency has been leveling in college populations, it has been steadily increasing in non-college peers. Now at 13%, the non-college level is nearly three times higher than for college students. By contrast, this difference does not exist for less frequent marijuana use (annual prevalence) where both groups had non-significant declines. Synthetic cannabinoid (K2/Spice) use is low in both groups, but again significantly higher in the non-college group (2.4% versus 0.5%).

An even greater difference between the two groups can be found in their daily use of cigarettes – 14% by non-college compared to 2% for college students. Vaping is slightly higher in the non-college group (8% versus 6%).

When it comes to past month alcohol use, on the other hand, college students out-drink their non-college peers by 62% versus 56% and are more likely to mix this with caffeine-containing energy drinks.

Monitoring the Future does not collect data that allows for the further analysis of these findings, so we are free to return to speculation to fill in the blanks. Other statistics relating to alcohol and marijuana use suggests that increased access has the greatest impact on heavy rather than casual users. This does not explain, however, the discrepancy between the college and non-college populations. 


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