Sunday, September 12, 2021

Survey: Young Women Surpass Men in Lifetime Marijuana Use

Articles on the annual Monitoring the Future survey of drug and alcohol use in young adults in 2020 picked up on the findings that college students reported using more cannabis and psychedelics, and less alcohol, than in previous years. 

Forty-four percent of college-age adults surveyed reported using cannabis in 2020, up from 38 percent in 2015. Eight percent of respondents reported using marijuana “on a daily or near daily basis in 2020,” up from five percent in 2015. And while the use of other illicit drugs is declining among young adults,  annual prevalence of use of any hallucinogens, of LSD in particular, showed significant one-year increases in 2020 for college students (to 8.6% and 7.3%).

"Across the board, men tended to report more substance use than women," researchers and articles have tended to report. However, the findings show that while women were somewhat less likely to use marijuana or any illicit drug annually, monthly, or daily in 2020, their reported lifetime use of marijuana or any illicit drug was greater than men's.

Among the full young adult sample ages 19 to 30 in 2020, 64.2% of women reported lifetime marijuana use, versus 63.4% of men. (Table 4-2). This is the first time women have surpassed men in the report, but the gap has been narrowing: in 2019, 65% of men and 63% of women reported lifetime marijuana use; in 2018 it was 62% to 61%, and in 2017 it was 63% to 59%.

Regarding annual prevalence, men reported slightly more marijuana use (43%) than women (41%). Similarly, men were higher than women on reported 30-day use of marijuana (28% vs. 26%); and 12% percent of men reported daily marijuana use, vs. 8.2% of women. Similar results were reported for annual marijuana vaping (23% vs. 18%), and 30-day marijuana vaping (12% vs. 10%).

Reported lifetime use of any illicit drug other than marijuana was significantly higher among men (41%) than women (35%), but overall more women (67.2%) reported lifetime use of any illicit drug (including marijuana) than men (65.8%), a change from 2019, when 69% of men and 67% of women reported lifetime illicit drug use. For annual illicit drug use over time, the gap between men's and women's use has narrowed from 8.3% in 2010 down to 0.7% in 2020. (Table 5-5). In 2020, men had higher annual prevalence levels than women for hallucinogens (9.5% vs. 6.2%), amphetamines and cocaine (8.7% vs. 5.6%), researchers reported. The two sexes were similar regarding annual prevalence of MDMA (5.1% to 4.2%), and narcotics other than heroin, although those numbers were small (around 2%).

According to the Wall Street Journal, in places where recreational cannabis remains illegal, some students have received medical clearance or used “hemp with Delta-8 THC, which currently inhabits a legal gray zone despite being intoxicating, albeit less so than Delta-9 THC,” said Susan A. Stoner [yes, that's her real name!] a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug and Alcohol Institute. 

The number of college-aged adults reporting being drunk in the last month dropped to 28 percent in 2020, compared to 35 percent in 2019, something NIDA's Nora Volkow attributed to students not being able to gather in social settings where they drink due to COVID. 

"For more frequent and heavier use of alcohol, men reported higher levels than women," researchers reported. Daily alcohol use was significantly more common for men than women (7.7% vs. 3.8%), as was true for binge drinking—having five or more drinks in a row at least once in the prior two weeks (34% vs. 24%). There was a particularly large (and significant) gender difference in measures of high-intensity drinking in 2020: prevalence of having 10 or more drinks at least once in the prior two weeks was 17% for men vs. 9.1% for women, and prevalence of having 15 or more drinks was 5.2% for men and 1.1% for women. (It's still shocking that those numbers are so high, for both sexes.)

Overall, it looks like women are better than men at moderating their drug and alcohol use. And it seems that we're all moving to healthier habits, away from liquor and pills and back to the goddesses' plant teachers of old. This year was also the first time that women reported supporting marijuana legalization at a slightly higher percentage than men. 

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