‘The Covid-19 pandemic … offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug taking behavior has shifted’, says National Institute on Drug Abuse director
A record high percentage of college students claimed to have used marijuana in 2020, according to a study.
Roughly half of university students reported consuming cannabis in 2020. Along with the spike in marijuana use comes a drop in the percentage of students reporting that they consumed alcohol during the same period, according to findings from Monitoring The Future, a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Since 1980, the government group has looked at drug consumption among people ages 19 to 22. For the latest installment, they spoke to 1,550 young people between March and November 2020, the first six months of the pandemic.
Among the many discoveries about people’s drug habits, the most notable was that 44 per cent of university students said they used cannabis in 2020.
Back in 2015, 38 per cent of students said they had. The study’s senior investigator has suggested that the pandemic contributed to the changes.
“The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way that young people interact with one another and offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug taking behavior has shifted through these changes,” Director of NIDA, Dr Nora Volkow, said in a statement. “Moving forward, it will be critical to investigate how and when different substances are used among this young population, and the impact of these shifts over time.”
According to the report, admissions of “daily or near daily” cannabis use went up. Five years prior, it was at 5 per cent, while in the most recently study, it was 8 per cent.
Concurrently, the use of alcohol went down. In 2019, the amount of people using it stood at 62 per cent. It dropped to 56 per cent in 2020.
College students who reported being drunk within the past month went from 35 per cent to 28 per cent. Binge-drinking levels sank to 24 per cent from 32 per cent. For the purposes of the study, binge-drinking is defined as having five or more alcoholic drinks in one day, once every two weeks.
While the study does not speculate on why these levels have changed, experts have attempted to explain the findings.
John Schulenberg, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, said the dip in alcohol usage might be explained by younger people connecting alcohol with socialising.
“We clearly see that young people use alcohol as something to be taken at parties and gatherings. With the pandemic, those weren’t happening, so the alcohol intake and binge-drinking dropped,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
Dr Volkow also suggested that the boredom and stress caused by the pandemic also contributed.
“The pandemic seems to have actually made marijuana into an alternative to escape the monotony of isolation,” she told the Post.
The Independent contacted NIDA for further comment.