Marijuana and hallucinogen consumption, as well as binge drinking, have reached record levels among adults aged 35 to 50.

In 2022, adults aged 35 to 50 saw record highs in their past-year marijuana and hallucinogen use, continuing the upward trend observed in recent years. Meanwhile, individuals aged 19 to 30 experienced significant increases in marijuana and hallucinogen use, as well as marijuana and nicotine vaping, reaching historic levels for this age group. The annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study, which surveys substance use behaviors and attitudes of adults between 19 and 60, revealed these findings. The study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor.

Binge drinking among younger adults has decreased over the last decade. However, adults aged 35 to 50 in 2022 showed the highest levels of binge drinking ever recorded for this age group, indicating a notable increase over the past year, five years, and ten years.

“Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan,” said NIDA director, Nora Volkow, M.D. “Understanding these trends is a first step, and it is crucial that research continues to illuminate how substance use, and related health impacts may change over time. We want to ensure that people from the earliest to the latest stages in adulthood are equipped with up-to-date knowledge to help inform decisions related to substance use.”

The MTF study has been surveying substance use behaviors and attitudes among a nationally representative group of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders every year since 1975. Additionally, a subset of participants is part of a longitudinal panel study that includes follow-up surveys after 12th grade to monitor their drug use into adulthood. These participants are tracked every two years until they reach the age of 30, and then every five years thereafter, with some of the oldest participants now in their 60s.

The 2022 survey of adults gathered data through online and paper surveys between April and October 2022. The researchers categorized the data into two age brackets for trend analysis: 19-30 years old and 35-50 years old. Important discoveries comprise:

Marijuana Use: Among adults aged 19 to 30, the rates of past-year marijuana usage and daily marijuana consumption hit record highs in the recent study. Approximately 44% of participants surveyed in 2022 reported past-year usage, marking an increase from 35% in 2017 and 28% in 2012. Daily marijuana consumption also peaked in 2022 at 11%, surpassing the rates from 2017 (8%) and 2012 (6%).

Reports of past-year marijuana use among adults aged 35 to 50 also reached an all-time high in 2022 (28%). This had increased from the previous year (25% in 2021) and five years ago (17% in 2017), and more than doubled compared to 10 years ago (13% in 2012).

Hallucinogen Use: In the 19 to 30 age group, 8% of adults reported using hallucinogens in the past year, which is notably higher than the rates from five years ago (5% in 2017) and ten years ago (3% in 2012). Common hallucinogens mentioned by participants were LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, shrooms or psilocybin, and PCP. The majority of recent hallucinogen use in 2022 among adults in this age category involved substances other than LSD (7% in 2022).

Past-year hallucinogen use reached historically high prevalence among adults 35 to 50 years old, reported by 4% in 2022. The prevalence reported in 2022 was also a substantial increase compared to the year before (2% in 2021) and five and 10 years ago (no greater than 1% in both 2017 and 2012).

Alcohol Use: In the last ten years, alcohol consumption among adults aged 19 to 30 has decreased, including past-month use, daily drinking, and binge drinking. However, there was a slight increase in past-year drinking for this age group in 2022 (84%) compared to 2017 (82%).

Alcohol use among adults aged 35 to 50 has shown a gradual increase over the past 10 years, with past-year drinking increasing from 83% in 2012 to 85% in 2022. Binge drinking in this older group reached its highest levels (29% in 2022), and increased over the past year, five years, and 10 years (26% in 2021; 25% in 2017; 23% in 2012).

The research indicated a 10-year decrease in the past-year consumption of cigarettes, sedatives, and non-medical use of opioid medications for both adult age brackets. Past-year usage of amphetamines demonstrated a 10-year decline among 19- to 30-year-olds and a 10-year rise among 35- to 50-year-olds. The report also covers drug use patterns among college and non-college young adults, demographic subgroups, and other relevant data.

“The value of surveys such as MTF is to show us how drug use trends evolve over decades and across development – from adolescence through adulthood,” said Megan Patrick, Ph.D., a research professor at the University of Michigan and principal investigator of the MTF panel study. “Behaviors and public perception of drug use can shift rapidly, based on drug availability and other factors. It’s important to track this so that public health professionals and communities can be prepared to respond.”

Results from the related 2022 MTF study of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among teens in the United States was released in December 2022, and 2023 results are upcoming in December 2023.

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