Study: College Students Increase Daily Marijuana Use

The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study sheds light on the usage rates of several different types of drugs among the nation’s college students.

Past-year use of cocaine showed a statistically significant increase from 2.7 percent in 2013 to 4.4 percent in 2014.

“We are being cautious in interpreting this one-year increase, which we do not see among high school students; but we do see some increase in cocaine use in other young adult age bands, so there may in fact be an increase in cocaine use beginning to occur,” Johnston said. “There is some more welcome news for parents as they send their children off to college this fall. Perhaps the most important is that five out of every 10 college students have not used any illicit drug in the past year, and more than three quarters have not used any in the prior month.”

In addition, the use of synthetic marijuana (also called K-2 or spice) has been dropping sharply since its use was first measured in 2011. At that time, 7.4 percent of college students indicated having used synthetic marijuana in the prior 12 months; by 2014 the rate had fallen to just 0.9 percent, including a significant decline in use in 2014. One reason for the decline in synthetic drug use is that an increasing number of young people see it as dangerous.

Likewise, college students’ use of salvia-a hallucinogenic plant which became popular in recent years-fell from an annual prevalence of 5.8 percent in 2009 to just 1.1 percent in 2014. The nonmedical use of narcotic drugs-which has accounted for an increasing number of deaths in recent years according to official statistics-actually has been declining among college students, falling from 8.8 percent reporting past-year use in 2006 down to 4.8 percent by 2014.

This is a particularly welcome improvement from a public health point of view, note the investigators. There is no evidence of a shift over from narcotic drugs to heroin use in this population. Use of heroin has been very low among college students over the past five years or so-lower than it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The non-medical use of tranquilizers by college students has fallen by nearly half since 2003, when 6.9 percent reported past-year use, to 2014, when 3.5 percent did. The use of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, once popular in this age group, remains at low levels of use on campus, with past-year usage rates at 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

And use of the so-called club drugs (Ketamine, GHB, Rohypnol) remains very low. Further, the use of so-called bath salts (synthetic stimulants often sold over the counter) never caught on among college students, who have a negligible rate of use.

In sum, quite a number of drugs have been fading in popularity on U.S. college campuses in recent years, and a similar pattern is found among youth who do not attend college. Two of the newer drugs, synthetic marijuana and salvia, have shown steep declines in use. Other drugs are showing more gradual declines, including narcotic drugs other than heroin, sedatives and tranquilizers-all used nonmedically-as well as inhalants and hallucinogens.

On the other hand, past-year and past-month marijuana use increased from 2006 through 2013 before leveling; and daily marijuana use continues to grow, reaching the highest level seen in the pas
t 35 years in 2014 (5.9 percent). Amphetamine use grew fairly sharply on campus between 2008 and 2012, and it then stabilized at high levels not seen since the mid-1980s.

Ecstasy use has made somewhat of a rebound since the recent low observed among college students in 2007. Cocaine use among college students is well below the 1980s and 1990s rates, but the significant increase in 2014 among college students suggests a need to watch this drug carefully in the future.

Read More Articles Like This… With A FREE Subscription

Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

Get your free subscription today!


Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ