Study: Marijuana Use Among College-Age Adults Hit Historic High In 2020

By Benzinga Staff Writer, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

Among college students specifically, there was also a significant increase in the annual use of hallucinogens and a substantial and significant drop in current alcohol use.

By Maureen Meehan

Marijuana use continued to rise among college students and same-aged peers who are not in college in 2020, according to survey results from the 2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study, reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

This represents the highest levels of marijuana use recorded since the 1980s. The Kids Are Alright The survey also found that marijuana vaping and nicotine vaping leveled off in 2020 after sharp increases were reported every year since 2017 for both college students and same-aged respondents who are not in college. One might conclude that cannabis vaping decreased when the vaping crisis hit nationwide and health authorities found undisclosed additives and cutting agents like Vitamin E acetate in cannabis concentrates.

“That’s when I quit vaping. I have not and probably will not go back to it,” one Ohio college student told Benzinga, not wishing her name to be used, as cannabis is still illegal in the Buckeye State. Psychedelics On The Rise, Alcohol Use Declines Among college students specifically, there was also a significant increase in the annual use of hallucinogens and a substantial and significant drop in current alcohol use between 2019 and 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way that young people interact with one another and offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug-taking behavior has shifted through these changes,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

“Moving forward, it will be critical to investigate how and when different substances are used among this young population and the impact of these shifts over time.”

NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded the MTF study, which has been annually tracking substance use among college students and noncollege adults ages 19-22 since 1980. The survey is conducted annually by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor. The 2020 survey, based on responses collected online from 1,550 college-aged adults between March 20, 2020 through November 30, 2020, noted the following key findings:

Marijuana use reached the highest level in over three-and-a-half decades in 2020.


Forty-four percent of college students reported using weed in 2020, compared to 38% in 2015 — a significant increase. For young adults not in college, annual marijuana use in 2020 remained at 43%, basically the same as 2018 and 2019.

In contrast and worth mentioning, similar increases and record highs in marijuana use were not observed among 12th graders in recent years, with 35% of high school seniors reporting using marijuana in the past year in 2020, thus supporting a recent American Medical Association study that marijuana legalization laws are not associated with increased use among high school students.

Cigarette smoking is down, with only 4% of college students and 13% of non-college respondents reporting having smoked in the past month.

Non-medical use of amphetamines and opioid use continued to decline among college students and non-college peers.

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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