Less Booze, More Weed: Covid-19 Impacts Partying on Campuses?

The recent all-time highs in marijuana use among college students and the decline in drinking attributed to the pandemic
14 September 2021
2 min read
Less Booze, More Weed: Covid-19 Impacts Partying on Campuses?

A 2020 ‘Monitoring the Future’ survey found that almost half of 18–22 year-olds attending college had used cannabis in the past 12 months. The daily or nearly daily use also reached historical records. At the same time, such alcohol consumption behaviors as being drunk and binge drinking declined considerably.

The survey was conducted in May–November 2020 when the US took the first serious hit by the pandemic, and scientists believe that this shift in substance use trends may be partly due to Covid-19 restrictions.

A Questionable Way of Coping with Stress

One of the reasons why cannabis gained in popularity among college students in 2020 could have been its ability to provide a temporary way out to those living in constant isolation and boredom. As the number of parties on campuses declined, more people turned to cannabis.

The past-year use reached 44 percent in 2020, up 6 points from 2015. Likewise, there was an increase of almost 3 points for daily or nearly daily consumption in the same period — from 5 to 8 percent.

It needs to be noted that an upward trend was observed even before the pandemic, so the link is not clear. At the same time, alcohol consumption on campuses plummeted — from 62% in 2019 to 56% in 2020. That was clearly the consequence of fewer social events during the health crisis.

Substance Use Patterns Come and Go. But Not Always

Professor John Schulenberg from the University of Michigan, one of the lead investigators, said that mind-altering substances sometimes lose popularity over the years but can come back. This happened with nicotine vaping whose sharp spike worried health professionals only two years ago. The recent MTF survey found that it was already on the decline.

The current popularity of cannabis use among college students may turn out to be a more long-term trend. The same survey noted a record drop in how young adults perceive the risks associated with using the substance. Only 24 percent of them believe that it poses a significant risk of harm. It’s an all-time low, and this number speaks of more than just the attitude of college students. It rather reflects the situation with society in general.

14 September 2021
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