Millennials’ Marijuana Usage Has Risen But Pales to Baby Boomers’ Hazy Days

Article by Madison Margolin, LA Weekly


The Baby Boomers still outcompete every generation in getting high, but could it be that college kids today are catching up? Only slightly.

The popular saying, “If you remember the Sixties, you weren’t there,” still rings true, according to the most recent iteration of the 40-year-long Monitoring the Future study from the University of Michigan. The study found that about 85 percent of 50-somethings have used illegal drugs, including marijuana, in their lifetimes. Not including weed, still a whopping 70 percent of them were using other kinds of drugs. Compared to high school and college students today, late millennials look like a generation of squares. Since 1980, the amount of college kids who reported having used marijuana in the past year declined from 51.2 percent to 37.9 percent in 2015.

But in the past decade, college kids’ marijuana use has steadily increased from 30 percent in 2006. Despite medical and recreational marijuana legalization sweeping the country, researchers can’t draw a direct line to state laws, said lead investigator Lloyd Johnston. “What we do know [is that] among young people, there’s quite a dramatic drop in the proportion of them who see heavy marijuana use as dangerous,” he said. “That, in turn, has changed usage.” According to a recent study in The Lancet Psychiatry, the perceived risk of smoking weed has decreased from 50.4 percent to 33.3 percent among adults.

This may not be great news for the immature brain, according to Johnston. “The brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25,” he said. “Kids who are teens and college age may be influencing their brain in ways they don’t wish to if they knew about it.”

Still, smoking weed is far less dangerous than other drugs. The most important finding, Johnston said, is the decrease in opioid use among kids. The use of prescription drugs like vicodin or oxycontin has declined from 8.7 percent in 2003 to 3.3 percent in 2015.

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