Marijuana and hallucinogen use, binge drinking, reach historic highs among adults 35-50

August 17, 2023
A person with a drug addict problem. Drug addiction to marijuana, cocaine, spices, heroin, synthetic drugs. Image credit: Galina Yureva, iStock
A person with a drug addict problem. Drug addiction to marijuana, cocaine, spices, heroin, synthetic drugs. Image credit: Galina Yureva, iStock

Adults aged 35 to 50 continued a long-term upward trajectory in past-year use of marijuana and hallucinogens to reach all-time highs in 2022, according to the Monitoring the Future panel study, an annual survey of substance use behaviors and attitudes of adults 19-to-60 years old.

Marijuana use and vaping were at their highest historic levels among younger adults aged 19 to 30 in 2022, with reports of past-year marijuana and hallucinogen use as well as marijuana and nicotine vaping significantly increased in the past five years. The MTF study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, and is conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

While binge drinking has generally declined for the past 10 years among younger adults, adults aged 35 to 50 in 2022 reported the highest prevalence of binge drinking ever recorded for this age group, which also represents a significant past-year, five-year and 10-year increase.

“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,” said Megan Patrick, research professor and principal investigator of the MTF panel study. “Behaviors and public perception of drug use can shift rapidly, based on drug availability and other factors. It’s important to track this so that public health professionals and communities can be prepared to respond.”

Since 1975, the MTF study has annually surveyed substance use behaviors and attitudes among nationally representative samples of eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The MTF longitudinal panel study conducts follow-up surveys on a subset of the participants after the 12th grade to track their drug use through adulthood. After high school, the participants are followed every other year through age 30, then every five years afterward, with the oldest participants now in their 60s.

“In 2022, we are seeing that marijuana and hallucinogen use, and vaping of nicotine and marijuana, are higher than ever among young adults ages 19 to 30,” Patrick said. “In addition, midlife adults ages 35 to 50 have the highest level of binge drinking we have ever seen in that age group.”

For example, 44% of young adults reported using marijuana in the past year, more than 1 in 10 reported using marijuana almost every day, and more than 1 in 5 have vaped marijuana. Nicotine vaping has nearly doubled in this age group since it was first measured in 2017 (from 14% to 24% in 2022). Hallucinogen use has more than doubled in 10 years, now at 8% in 2022 (compared to 3% in 2012).

Among midlife adults aged 35 to 50, marijuana and hallucinogen use have also been increasing. In the past year, 28% have used marijuana and 4% have used hallucinogens. Nearly 30% of adults reported having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks.

Data for the 2022 survey of adults were collected via online and paper surveys from April 2022 through October 2022. Researchers divided the data into two age groups to conduct trend analyses: 19-to-30 years old and 35-to-50 years old.

Key findings include:

Marijuana use: For adults aged 19 to 30, the percentages of those reporting past-year marijuana use and daily marijuana use reached their highest levels ever reported by the study. Past-year use was reported by approximately 44% of those surveyed in 2022, an increase from five years ago (35% in 2017) and 10 years ago (28% in 2012). Daily marijuana use also reached its highest level reported in 2022 (11%), which was greater than five years (8% in 2017) and 10 years ago (6% in 2012).

Reports of past-year marijuana use among adults aged 35 to 50 also reached an all-time high in 2022 (28%). This had increased from the previous year (25% in 2021) and five years ago (17% in 2017), and more than doubled compared to 10 years ago (13% in 2012).

Vaping: Past-year marijuana vaping was reported by 21% of adults 19-to-30 years old in 2022, the highest levels reported since the measure was first added in 2017 (12%), as well as a notable increase from the past year (19% in 2021). Past-year nicotine vaping among this younger adult group also reached a historic high in 2022 (24%), nearly double the rate reported five years ago in 2017 (14%), when the measure was first added.

Among adults aged 35 to 50, past-year marijuana vaping has remained at similar levels (9% in 2022) since 2019, when these measures were first available in this age group. Prevalence of past-year nicotine vaping has also remained steady in this age group since it has been reported, with 7% reporting in 2022.

Hallucinogen use: Among adults aged 19 to 30, 8% reported past-year use of hallucinogens, significantly higher than five years ago (5% in 2017) and 10 years ago (3% in 2012). Types of hallucinogens reported by participants included LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, shrooms or psilocybin, and PCP. Most of past-year use in 2022 reported by adults in this age group involved hallucinogens other than LSD (7% in 2022).

Past-year hallucinogen use reached historically high prevalence among adults 35-to-50 years old, reported by 4% in 2022. The prevalence reported in 2022 was also a substantial increase compared to the year before (2% in 2021) and five and 10 years ago (no greater than 1% in both 2017 and 2012).

Alcohol use: Over the past decade, rates of alcohol use—including past-month use, daily drinking and binge drinking—have shown an overall downward trend for adults 19-to-30 years old. Past-year drinking slightly increased for this age group in 2022 (84%) compared to five years ago (82% in 2017).

Alcohol use among adults aged 35 to 50 has shown a gradual increase over the past 10 years, with past-year drinking increasing from 83% in 2012 to 85% in 2022. Binge drinking in this older group reached its highest levels (29% in 2022), and increased over the past year, five years and 10 years (26% in 2021; 25% in 2017; 23% in 2012).

The study also showed that past-year use of cigarettes, sedatives and nonmedical use of opioid medications (narcotics other than heroin) showed a 10-year decline for both adult age groups. Reports of past-year amphetamine use continued a 10-year decrease among 19-to-30-year-olds and a 10-year increase among 35-to-50-year-olds. Drug use trends among college and noncollege young adults, demographic subgroups and other additional data are also included in the report.

Results from the related 2022 MTF study of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among teens in the United States was released in December 2022, and 2023 results are forthcoming in December 2023.

Research reported in this news release was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01DA016575. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.