Middle-aged US Adults Binge Drinking, Using Marijuana at Record Levels, New Study Finds

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Binge drinking, vaping, marijuana use and hallucinogen consumption reached an all-time high among adults in the U.S. last year, reflecting a significant upward trajectory in substance use in recent years, a new study shows.

New research from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel revealed that middle-aged adults ages 35 to 50 are using marijuana and hallucinogens at record levels. Binge drinking had spiked to the “highest prevalence … ever recorded for this age group,” the panel study reported Thursday.

For younger adults ages 19 to 30, marijuana use and nicotine vaping saw a sharp increase in the past five years, climbing to their highest levels ever seen.

“Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release.

The MTF panel study is an annual survey that analyzes substance use behaviors and attitudes in adults ages 19 to 60. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the survey collects data from a sample of about 28,500 participants nationwide each year.

Inside the numbers

The survey data, which researchers divided into two age groups to analyze trends, was collected from April to October of last year.

“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,” Megan Patrick, research professor and principal investigator of the MTF panel study, said in a news release. “Behaviors and public perception of drug use can shift rapidly, based on drug availability and other factors.”

Regarding marijuana and hallucinogens use, binge drinking and vaping, the study also found:

  • About 44% of young adults reported using marijuana in the past year, an increase from 28% about a decade ago. Daily marijuana use reached its highest level in the age group, nearly doubling from 10 years ago, with more than 1 in 10 using cannabis almost every day.
  • For adults ages 35 to 50, marijuana use more than doubled compared with 10 years ago with 28% reporting having used the drug.
  • Young and middle-aged adult groups used hallucinogens such as LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, mushrooms or psilocybin, and PCP at a significantly higher rate compared with 10 years ago. Among adults ages 19 to 30, 8% reported use of hallucinogens in the past year, and 4% of adults 35 to 50 years old reported use.
  • Nicotine vaping among young adults nearly doubled over the past five years, from 14% in 2017 − when the measure was first added to the survey − to 24% in 2022.
  • Binge drinking for the middle-aged group had reached its highest levels in 2022 at 29% compared with 25% in 2017 and 23% in 2012, respectively. Almost 30% of middle-aged adults reported having five or more consecutive drinks in the past two weeks.

Substance use in the United States

According to the most recent data released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 61.2 million Americans ages 12 and older have used illicit drugs as of 2021. The most common illicit drug used was marijuana, which 52.5 million people used in 2021.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics said drug abuse and substance disorders are more likely found in young males, with drug use the highest among people ages 18 to 25.

As of 2021, “nearly 2 in 5 young adults 18 to 25 used illicit drugs … 1 in 3 young adults 18 to 25 used marijuana,” according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

And most American adults “consume alcohol at least once in their lifetime,” and an average of more than 140,000 die from the effects of alcohol every year, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics said.

Source: USA Today