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Marijuana and psychedelic use on the rise among young adults, study finds

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2022-08-26-Use of marijuana and psychedelics on the rise among young adults

The annual US Substance Use Survey shows a growing widespread acceptance of cannabis and hallucinogenic compounds.

The annual drug use survey found that daily marijuana consumption among young adults has nearly doubled in the past decade.

According to federal research data, marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults hit an all-time high last year after leveling off during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

More nicotine vaping and alcohol use

The findings, which are part of the government's annual survey of drug use among young Americans, also found that nicotine vaping and excessive alcohol consumption continued to rise in 2021 after a short hiatus. Another worrying trend among young people aged 19 to 30: increasing consumption of alcoholic beverages infused with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Trends in drug use

But there were some bright spots in the study. Cigarette smoking and opioid abuse among young adults declined last year, an ongoing trend that has encouraged public health experts.

Overall, the report presents a mixed picture of substance use in the United States, which experts say reflects a number of diverse trends affecting young Americans: the devastating mental health effects of the pandemic; the increased availability of legal marijuana; and the emerging therapeutic embrace of psychedelics for the treatment of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological problems.

“Overall, the results are very concerning,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which publishes the annual Monitoring the Future survey. “What they are telling us is that the problem of substance abuse among young people in this country has gotten worse and that the pandemic, with all its mental stressors and unrest, probably contributed to the rise.”

Young adults use more marijuana and psychedelics

The online survey of people aged 19 to 60 was conducted from April to October 2021. Drug use experts said the increasing use of marijuana among young adults was particularly noteworthy. The survey found that 43 percent in the 19-30 age group reported having used cannabis in the past 12 months, up from 34 percent in 2016. In 2011, that figure was 29 percent.

Daily marijuana consumption (defined as 20 or more times in the past 30 days) also rose significantly, from 6 percent in 2011 to 11 percent. According to the survey, use also occurred in people aged 35 to 50. Not surprisingly, the rise in marijuana use has been accompanied by an increase in the number of states that have legalized recreational use — 19 in the past decade. (13 more states allow the medicinal use of cannabis.) Experts say the normalization of marijuana has convinced many young people that it is harmless.

A similar dynamic, experts say, is also at play with psychedelics. Hallucinogen use had been stable for decades, but in 2021, 8 percent of young adults reported using psychedelics, compared to 3 percent in 2011, a record high since the category was first surveyed in 1988.

Therapeutic Value

In recent years, increasing media attention and social media experiences about the potential therapeutic value of ketamine, psilocybin mushrooms and ecstasy have helped to dispel long-held taboos.

“It's about availability, but also about peer acceptance,” says Dr. Kevin M. Gray, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Young people generally do not see these substances as dangerous, but the consequences of their use are still there.”

While the risks of psychedelics are usually short-lived — overdoses are rare and most compounds are non-addictive — experts stress the importance of using them under professional guidance. Some states have decriminalized psilocybin, but it and other popular psychedelics remain banned under federal law. Although the Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant approval for some therapeutic uses in the coming years.

Source: nytimes.com (EN)

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