Cannabis and hallucinogen use among young people has increased among individuals from 19 to 30 years old. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed a dramatic increase in cannabis and hallucinogens. The MTF is a survey of young people’s substance use behaviors and attitudes. Longitudinal follow-up tracking a subset of participants' drug use through adulthood.
Survey responses were collected online from April 2021 through October 2021 and were self-reported. Participant reported data shows cannabis use increased from 34% in 2016 to 43% in 2021. Reports of hallucinogen use including LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, and psilocybin also started to increase in 2020.
Although alcohol remains the most used substance among young adults in the study, drinking has decreased in the past decade. Binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) dropped during the early stages of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and then rose again in 2021.
Nicotine vaping increased significantly among young adults. It increased from 6% in 2017 to 16% in 2021. Both binge drinking and cannabis vaping significantly dipped in 2020 but then increased in 2021. Cigarette smoking by young adults and non-medical use of opioid medication has decreased overall in the past decade.
This study provides critical insights into substance abuse behavior. According to Dr. Megan Patrick, Ph.D., research professor at the University of Michigan and principal investigator, "One of the best ways we can learn more about drug use and its impact on people is to observe which drugs are appearing, in which populations, for how long, and under which contexts. Monitoring the Future and similar large-scale surveys on a consistent sample population allow us to assess the effects of ‘natural experiments’ like the pandemic." Examining young people’s substance use behavior can inform policy and public health interventions.