Marijuana use among college students hits 30-year high

Marijuana use at an all-time high in 3 decades

Marijuana use among college students is at its highest in 30 years with the most significant increases occurring in the past three years, according to researchers from the University of Michigan (UM).

Richard Miech, the lead author of the study, believes it’s because of the recent momentum for the legal recreational marijuana use in states like Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California, which joined other states with similar laws this past November. He said that a significant fraction of these college students likely have tolerant attitudes toward marijuana and perceive it as safe and state-sanctioned, like alcohol.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, revealed that 1 in 5 college students will become first-time users of marijuana in college. This data comes from the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, which is organized by a team of UM analysts who have tracked drug use in young adults for nearly four decades.

“Many factors make a college environment conducive to experimentation with substance use,” Miech said. “These include lack of parental supervision, lots of free time, and on many campuses, a college culture. As a point of comparison, young adults in college are significantly more likely to binge drink than their same-age peers not in college.”

The increase in first-time users does not include non-college students of the same age, the researchers clarified. As a result of this exclusion, a noticeable upsurge appeared in first-time marijuana use in college when compared to those not attending colleges: past-year marijuana use was 51 percent higher among college students than non-college students in 2015, 41 percent in 2014, and 31 percent in 2013.

Within the years of 1977 to 2012, college students who had never used marijuana were between 17 and 22 percent more prone to use marijuana than their non-college peers.

Because the researchers collected data before and after 2013 — the first complete year recreational marijuana use was allowed in Washington and Colorado — the extent of first-time marijuana use escalated quickly for college students when contrasted to those not attending college after 2012.

“This research shows that before 2013, the college environment was only a slight risk factor for first-time marijuana use,” Miech said.

Presently, most colleges are required to… (continue reading)