Middle-aged US adults binge drinking, using marijuana at record levels, new study finds

Fri, Aug 18

Binge drinking, vaping, marijuana use, and hallucinogen consumption reached an all-time high among U.S. adults in 2022, showing a significant upward trajectory in substance use in recent years, according to a study released Thursday.

New research from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel revealed that middle-aged adults, between the ages of 35 and 50, in the United States are using marijuana and hallucinogens at record levels. Binge drinking had also spiked to the "highest prevalence... ever recorded for this age group," according to the panel study.

For younger adults aged 19 to 30, marijuana use and nicotine vaping saw a sharp increase in the past five years, climbing to their highest historic levels ever seen in 2022.

"Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release.

The MTF panel study is an annual survey that analyzes substance use behaviors and attitudes seen in adults between the ages of 19 and 60. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the survey collects data from a sample of approximately 28,500 participants nationwide each year.

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Data, which researchers divided into two age groups to conduct trend analyses, for the 2022 survey was collected between April and October of last year.

"The value of surveys such as MTF is to show us how drug use trends evolve over decades and across development, from adolescence through adulthood," Megan Patrick, research professor and principal investigator of the MTF panel study, said in a news release. "Behaviors and public perception of drug use can shift rapidly, based on drug availability and other factors."

Regarding marijuana and hallucinogens use, binge drinking, and vaping, the study ALSO found:

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According to the most recent data released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 61.2 million Americans aged 12 and older have used illicit drugs as of 2021. The most common illicit drug used was marijuana, which 52.5 million people used in 2021.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics said drug abuse and substance disorders are more likely to affect young males with drug use the highest among individuals between the ages of 18 and 25.

As of 2021, "nearly 2 in 5 young adults 18 to 25 used illicit drugs... 1 in 3 young adults 18 to 25 used marijuana," according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

And most American adults "consume alcohol at least once in their lifetime" with an average of more than 140,000 dying from the effects of alcohol per year, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics said.