Press release

Monday, August 22, 2022

An NIH-backed study also found that vaping levels last month were rebounding from an early drop in the pandemic.

Reported past year use of marijuana and hallucinogens by young adults aged 19-30 increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in this age group. age since 1988, according to the Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study. Rates of nicotine vaping in the previous month, which have been steadily increasing among young adults over the past four years, also continued their general upward trend in 2021, despite leveling off in 2020. Marijuana vaping in the previous month, which had declined significantly in 2020, rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.

Alcohol remains the most widely used substance among the adults in the study, although use in the past year, past month, and daily use has declined over the past decade. Heavy drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) rebounded in 2021 from an all-time low in 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, high-intensity drinking (having 10 or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks) has increased steadily over the past decade and in 2021 reached its highest level ever. since the first measurement in 2005.

“As the drug landscape evolves over time, these data provide a window into the substances and patterns of use favored by young adults. We need to know more about how young adults use drugs like marijuana and hallucinogens, and the health effects that result from consuming different potencies and forms of these substances,” said Nora Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. critical life stage and develop their ability to make informed choices. Understanding how substance use can impact formative choices in young adults is essential to help position new generations for success.

Since 1975, the Watch the future The study annually examined behaviors and attitudes related to substance use among a nationally representative sample of adolescents. A longitudinal panel study component of MTF conducts follow-up surveys of a subset of these participants to track their drug use into adulthood. Participants self-report their drug use behaviors over three main time periods: lifetime, past year (12 months), and past month (30 days). The MTF study is being conducted by scientists at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is funded by NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The 2021 survey data was collected online from April 2021 to October 2021. Key findings for the young adult group include:

Cannabis use: Marijuana use in the past year, past month, and daily use (use 20 or more times in the past 30 days) has reached the highest levels on record since these trends were monitored for the first time in 1988. The proportion of young adults reporting marijuana use reached 43% in 2021, a significant increase from 34% five years ago (2016) and 29% 10 years ago ( 2011). Marijuana use in the previous month was reported by 29% of young adults in 2021, compared to 21% in 2016 and 17% in 2011. Daily marijuana use also increased significantly during these periods, reported by 11% of young adults in 2021, compared to 8% in 2016 and 6% in 2011.

Hallucinogenic use: Past-year hallucinogen use was relatively stable over the past decades until 2020, when reports of use began to increase dramatically. In 2021, 8% of young adults reported having used hallucinogens in the past year, an all-time high since the category was first surveyed in 1988. In comparison, in 2016, 5% of young adults have reported having used hallucinogens in the previous year, and in 2011 only 3% reported having used them. Types of hallucinogens reported by participants included LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, “mushrooms” or psilocybin, and PCP. The only measured hallucinogen whose use has decreased significantly is MDMA (also called ecstasy or Molly), showing statistically significant decreases in one year as well as over the past five years – from 5% in 2016 and 2020 to 3% in 2021.

Vaping: Past-month nicotine vaping increased significantly among young adults in 2021 despite leveling off in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The continued increase in 2021 reflects a general long-term upward trend: in 2021, the prevalence of nicotine vaping nearly tripled to 16% from 6% in 2017, when the behavior was first recorded.

The prevalence of marijuana vaping in the past month among young adults had declined significantly in 2020, but returned to near pre-pandemic levels in 2021. 2017 at 12% in 2021.

Alcohol consumption : Reports of binge drinking by young adults – defined as having had five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks – returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 after falling significantly in 2020 (32 % reported in 2021, compared to 28% in 2020 and 32% in 2019). High-intensity drinking, defined as drinking 10 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, was at its highest level since it was first measured in 2005, reported by 13% of young adults in 2021 , down from 11% in 2005 However, past month and past year drinking and daily drinking have trended downwards among young adults over the past 10 years. For example, in 2021, 66% of young adults reported having consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, a significant drop from the 70% recorded in 2016 and 69% in 2011.

The study also showed a significant decrease in past month cigarette smoking among young adults and past year non-medical use of opioid medications (investigated as “narcotics other than heroin ”) compared to 10 years ago. Both of these substances have seen a steady decline in use over the past decade. Additional data from the MTF 2021 Panel Study includes drug use reported by adults aged 35 to 50, college/non-college young adultsand among various demographic subgroups.

“One of the best ways to learn about drug use and its impact on people is to look at what drugs are emerging, in what populations, for how long, and in what settings,” said Megan Patrick, Ph.D., a research professor at the University of Michigan and principal investigator of the MTF panel study. “Monitoring the Future and similar large-scale surveys of a consistent population sample allow us to assess the effects of ‘natural experiments’ like the pandemic. We can examine how and why drugs are used and highlight critical areas to direct research to the next stage and inform public health interventions.

See more information on the methods behind the MTF panel study data collection and how the survey adjusts for the effects of potential exclusions in the report.

The results of the related 2021 MTF study on substance use behaviors and attitudes among adolescents in the United States were released in December 2021, and the 2022 results will be released in December 2022.

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About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports much of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute runs a wide variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):The NIH, the country’s medical research agency, comprises 27 institutes and centers and is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and studies the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit

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