The study, funded by NIH and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, also found that past-month rates of nicotine vaping - which have been gradually increasing for 4 years - continued to rise, as well as past-month marijuana vaping. Alcohol remains the most used substance among all adults, although past-year, past-month and daily drinking rates have been decreasing over the last decade.
"As the drug landscape shifts over time, this data provides a window into the substances and patterns of use favored by young adults," Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in an NIH press release. "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."
According to the panel study, past-year, past-month and daily use of marijuana reached the highest levels ever recorded since marijuana trends were first tracked in 1988. Forty-three percent of young adults reported using marijuana in 2021, an increase from 34% in 2016, and 29% in 2011.
Hallucinogen use in 2021 was reported among 8% of young adults, which was also an all-time high since tracking began in 1988. In 2016, 5% of young adults reported hallucinogen use, up from 3% reported use in 2011. Types of hallucinogens reported were LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin and PCP.
After leveling off in 2020, nicotine vaping increased significantly among young adults in 2021. Nicotine vaping prevalence was at 16% in 2021, nearly triple the rate of 6% in 2017, when vaping was first recorded. Since 2017, when marijuana vaping was also added to the list, prevalence rates increased from 6% to 12% in 2021.
Prevalence rates of binge drinking, which was defined as having five drinks or more in one sitting, returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 at 32%, compared with 28% in 2020. High intensity drinking - defined by having 10 drinks or more in one sitting - was at its highest level since records began in 2005, with 13% in 2021 compared with 11% in 2005.
"Young adults are in a critical life stage and honing their ability to make informed choices," Volkow said. "Understanding how substance use can impact the formative choices in young adulthood is critical to help position the new generations for success."
The Monitoring the Future study has surveyed substance use behaviors and attitudes among a nationally representative sample of teens since 1975. A longitudinal panel conducts follow-up surveys on a subset of participants to track their drug use through adulthood. The study is conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor.
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