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College attendance has increased as a risk factor for first marijuana use

2013 was the first full year after which two U.S. states legalized recreational marijuana use. A recent study used data from the Monitoring the Future study to examine college enrollment as a risk factor for initiation of marijuana use before and after 2013. Among respondents who reported never using marijuana by 12th grade (64% of the entire sample), the prevalence of marijuana use between the ages of 19 to 22 was lowest for individuals who were not enrolled in college. From 1977 – 2012, the prevalence of marijuana use among college students aged 19 to 22 years was 13% – 17%, compared to 17% – 22% among non-college students. Between 2013 and 2015, the prevalence of marijuana use increased to 18% – 21% for college students, yet remained stable for non-college students. The researchers calculated the probability of marijuana use for college students was 31% higher than for non-college students in 2013, 41% higher in 2014, and 51% higher in 2015. Increased marijuana use among college students is likely related to its perceived level of harm, which decreased to its lowest recorded level among college students in 30 years in 2015.

Take away: Since 2013, marijuana initiation has increased among college students, but not among their peers who were not enrolled in college.

Citation: Miech R, Patrick M, Patrick M, et al. (2017) The influence of college attendance on risk for marijuana initiation in the United States: 1977 to 2015. American Journal of Public Health, 996-1002

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