A University of Michigan study has found that drug use among college students has largely been trending up since 2007. Marijuana use has been on the rise, which should come as no surprise given recent legalization efforts. More worrisome, however, has been a rise in the use of other drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy.
The current rise in drug use comes after years of progress. For most types of drugs, use among college students actually dropped from the 1980’s through until about 2007. Drug abuse has been on the rebound over the last few years, however.
The study also found that daily marijuana use among college students has hit a historical high. In fact, for the first time in 35 years marijuana use has actually surpassed cigarette use on college campuses. A University of Michigan study has found that nearly 6 percent of college students in 2014 reported smoking marijuana at least 20 times in the last 30 days. This marks a large increase from the 3.5 percent of students who reported the same in a 2007 poll.
The use of illicit drugs besides marijuana is also on the rise. Marijuana is generally considered to be a relatively mild drug, but some worry that it could be a gateway drug for more serious drugs. In 2008 only 15 percent of students had reported using an illicit drug within the prior 12 months, but that rate has risen sharply to 21 percent in 2014. Illicit drug use is now at its highest point in 35 years, since the study began in 1980.
Use of ecstasy and cocaine are making a come back. In 2007 only 2.2 percent of students reported using ecstasy in the prior 12 months, but the rate rose to 5.8 percent in 2012 and has since leveled. The use of cocaine has likewise risen from 2.7 percent in 2013 to 4.4 percent in 2014.
The study’s principal investigator, Lloyd Johnston, pointed out that the rise in amphetamines, which has risen from 5.7% in the prior 12 months to 10.1% in 2014, may actually be tied to students seeking to increase their performance in school.
It remains unclear why drug use rates appear to be climbing among college students. Recent marijuana legalization laws may have had an impact, especially in regards to marijuana use, but for now the causes remain unclear.
At the same time, cigarette smoking has plummeted, with only 5 percent of students reporting that they smoke cigarettes on a daily basis. The authors of the studies have noted, however, that other forms of tobacco smoking, including hookah pipes and e-cigarettes, are actually on the rise.
Recent anti-smoking campaigns, in combination with stiff taxes that have seen packs of cigarettes rise to more than $10 dollars a pack in some places, appear to be having their intended effect, and are discouraging young people from smoking.
Drinking also remains high, with some 63 percent of students having had a drink in the last 30 days. This is down substantially from 1980, however, when 80 percent of students had reported the same. Binge drinking, which refers to rapidly drinking 5 or more drinks, has declined by 9 percentage points during the same time frame, from 44 percent to 35 percent. College students have long been more prone to drinking than their peers who are not in college.