Daily marijuana use among college-aged young adults has been climbing in recent years. In fact, 11.8 percent of non-college youth (those 1 to 4 years beyond high school) were daily users in 2015—the highest since 1980. This section features the most recent Monitoring the Future national survey results on substance use in this age group, including patterns of marijuana use, non-medical use of prescription drugs, cocaine, and newer trends like synthetic drugs, e-cigarettes, and hookah use. This section also has federal and private sector links of interest to educators, dorm supervisors, counselors, clinicians, and researchers who work with this age group, as well as the students themselves and their parents.
Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2015 Infographic
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Everything You Wanted to Know About Marijuana
- How does marijuana use affect your brain and body?
- Marijuana Research at NIDA
- NIDA's role in providing marijuana for research
- Health Effects
Changing Marijuana Laws and NIDA Research
Prescription Drugs & Cold Medicines
- What is Prescription Drug Abuse
- DrugFacts: Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse
- Emerging Trends - "Sizzurp", "Purple Drank"
- Prescription Stimulants (Abuse) Health Effects
- Prescription Sedatives, sleeping pills*, or anxiolytics (Abuse) Health Effects
- Prescription Opioids (Abuse) Health Effects
- Over-the-counter Cough/Cold Medicines (Dextromethorphan or DMX) Health Effects
Trends and Statistics
- Monitoring the Future (MTF)
The MTF study measures drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among college students nationwide. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. The annual survey is funded by NIDA and conducted by the University of Michigan.
- Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2016. Volume II: College students and adults ages 19-50 (PDF, 8MB) [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- View Infographic
- Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2015. Volume II: College students and adults ages 19-50 (PDF, 6MB) [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- Marijuana use continues to rise among U.S. college students; use of narcotic drugs declines [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- View Infographic
- Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2014. Volume II: College students and adults ages 19-50 (PDF, 9MB) [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- Daily marijuana use among U.S. college students highest since 1980 [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- Drugs & Health Blog: Alcohol and Drug Use in College-Aged Young Adults: 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey Results
- View Infographic
- Monitoring the Future national survey results on Drug Use, 1975-2013: Volume II, college students and adults ages 19-55 (PDF, 7MB) [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- College students' use of marijuana on the rise, some drugs declining [Monitoringthefuture.org]
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
SAMHSA’s NSDUH (formerly called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse [NHSDA]) is the primary source of information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and abuse in the general U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population, age 12 and older.
- The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)
The TEDS system includes records for approximately 1.5 million substance abuse treatment admissions annually. While TEDS does not represent all substance abuse treatment activities, it does comprise a significant proportion of all admissions to substance abuse treatment programs and includes those admissions that rely on public funds. Data are reported by sex, age, and race/ethnicity for each of 15 substance abuse categories. TEDS is maintained by the Office of Applied Studies, SAMHSA.
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
New Survey: Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Stimulants Becoming Normalized Behavior Among College Students, Young Adults.
Step by Step Treatment Guides
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIDA’s sister institute at the National institutes of Health, has many programs and initiatives related to alcohol use on college campuses and among other young adults. Since this population group often mixes alcohol and other drugs, the links below are invaluable to understanding substance use in this age group.
Additional Articles of Interest
- Longitudinal Influence of Alcohol and Marijuana Use on Academic Performance in College Students, PLOS, By Shashwath Meda, Ralitaza V. Gueorguieva, Brian Pittman, Rivkah R. Rosen, Farah Aslanzadeh, Howard Tennen, Samantha Leen, Keith Hawkins, Sarah Raskin, Rebecca M. Wood, Carol S. Austad, Alecia Dager, Carolyn Fallahi, and Godfrey Pearlson, March 8, 2017
- College Student Marijuana Involvement: Perceptions, Use, and Consequences Across 11 College Campuses, PubMed (abstract), By Pearson MR, Liese BS, Dvorak RD, and Marijuana Outcomes Study Team, March 2017
- Perceptions of Harm and Reasons for Misuse of Prescription Opioid Drugs and Reasons for Not Seeking Treatment for Physical or Emotional Pain Among a Sample of College Students, PubMed (abstract), By Kenne DR, Hamilton K, Birmingham L, Oglesby WH, Fischbein RL, and Delahanty DL, January 2017
- Naxolone Can Save Lives on College Campuses But Not If It's Only Stocked in Health Clinics, The Washington Post, By Jennifer Plumb, July 7, 2017
- Rural and Urban Substance Use Differences: Effects of the Transition to College, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, By Karen J. Derefinko, PhD, Zoran Bursac, PhD, Michael G. Mejia, BA, Richard Milich, PhD, and Donald R. Lynam, PhD, July 20, 2017
- Prevalence and Incidence of Drug Use Among College Students: An 8-year Longitudinal Analysis, PubMed (abstract), By Arria AM, Caldeira KM, Allen HK, Bugbee BA, Vincent KB, and O’Grade KE, April 12, 2017
- Electronic Cigarette Use and Uptake of Cigarette Smoking: A Longitudinal Examination of U.S. College Students, Addictive Behaviors, By Tory R. Spindle, Marzena M. Hiler, Megan E. Cooke, Thomas Eissenberg, Kenneth S. Kendler, and Danielle M. Dick, April 2017
- Perceived Academic Benefit is Associated with Nonmedical Prescription Stimulant Use Among College Students, PubMed (abstract), By Arria AM, Geisner IM, Cimini MD, Kilmer JR, Caldeira KM, Barrall AL, Vincent KB, Fossos-Wong N, Yeh JC, Rhew I, Lee CM, Subramaniam GA, Liu D, and Larimer ME, July 14, 2017
- Do College Students Improve Their Grades by Using Prescription Stimulants Nonmedically?, PubMed (abstract), By Arria AM, Caldeira KM, Vincent KB, O’Grady KE, Cimini MD, Geisner IM, Fossos-Wong N, Kilmer JR, and Larimer ME, February 2017
- Magnitude and Trends in Heavy Episodic Drinking, Alcohol-Impaired Driving, and Alcohol-Related Mortality and Overdose Hospitalizations Among Emerging Adults of College Ages 18-24 in the United States, 1998-2014, PubMed (abstract), By Hingson R, Zha W, and Smyth D, July 2017
- College Binge Drinking and Its Association with Depression and Anxiety: A Prospective Observational Study, PubMed, By Nourse R, Adamshick P, and Stoltzfus J, March 2017
- Health Buzz: College Students Aren't Binge Drinking As Much, Report Says, U.S. News & World Report, By David Oliver, July 28, 2017
- Is 4/20 an Event-Specific Marijuana Holiday? A Daily Diary Investigation of Marijuana Use and Consequences Among College Students, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, By Adrian J. Bravo, Ph.D., Matthew R. Pearson, Ph.D., Bradley T. Conner, Ph.D., & Jamie E. Parnes, M.S., December 12, 2016
- Energy Drink Use Patterns Among Young Adults: Associations with Drunk Driving, PubMed (abstract), By Arria AM, Caldeira KM, Bugbee BA, Vincent KB, and O'Grady KE, September 27, 2016
- The Cannabis and College Student Love Affair, Beacon Transcript, By Clayton Meason, September 10, 2016
- College High: Students Are Using More Marijuana, Fewer Opioids, NPR, By Angus Chen, September 9, 2016
Other Resources for College Students and Parents
- American College Health Association: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs/Substance Use
This page is an index of ACHA and other resources on this topic. Resources include association projects, programs, publications, guidelines, and more.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR)
The Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), at the University of Maryland at College Park, is dedicated to addressing the problems substance abuse creates for individuals, families, and communities.
- The College Life Study at the Center on Young Adult Health and Development
The College Life Study at the Center on Young Adult Health and Development is an NIH-funded project at the University of Maryland that aims to understand the health-related behaviors of young adults during a critical life transition.
- College Parents Matter
Tools and scripts to improve communication with your college student.
- JED foundation’s U Lifeline
ULifeline is a project of the Jed Foundation, a leading organization working to protect the emotional health of America's college students, and was developed with input from leading experts in mental health and higher education. ULifeline is an anonymous, confidential, online resource center - where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need and want regarding emotional health.
- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
This national nonprofit research and policy organization is focused on improving the understanding, prevention, and treatment of substance use and addiction. They conduct and synthesize research, inform and guide the public, evaluate and improve health care, and analyze and recommend policies on substance use and addiction.
Shatterproof is a national nonprofit dedicated to reducing the devastation that addiction to prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and alcohol causes to families.
- U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA): College Women’s Campaign
FDA’s College Women’s Campaign provides information on health topics such as safe medication use, sleep problems, contact lens safety and birth control. Sample messages are also provided for student leaders and college health professionals to use in their outreach.
- MEDLINEplus Health Information on Drug Abuse - National Library of Medicine, NIH
- www.abovetheinfluence.com - Office of National Drug Control Policy
- healthfinder.gov - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Past information on many drugs of abuse is available on our Archives site.
Clinical trials are research studies in human volunteers conducted to answer specific health questions. Learn about the NIH-sponsored clinical trials available to you.
- NIDA Clinical Trial Locator - answer a few simple questions and get contact information for Clinical Trials near you.
Other Clinical Trials information sources:
- NIH Clinical Trials and You - NIH site that helps explain about clinical trials and why people participate.
- NIDA Trials at ClinicalTrials.gov - a resource of federally and privately supported clinical trials.
- Clinical Research Studies from the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) - a NIDA coordinated network of research institutions conducting human trials on drug abuse solutions.
- Research Studies at NIDA Intramural Research Program - located in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Cite this article
NIDA. (2017, July 18). College-Age & Young Adults. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/college-age-young-adults
This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.
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