September 3, 2015

College Students Smoking More Pot than Cigarettes, Study Finds

The University of Michigan this week released some data highlighting drug use by American college students in 2014.

Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey data shows that daily marijuana use by college students increased from 3.5 percent in 2007 to 5.9 percent in 2014 and surpassed daily cigarette smoking for the first time in 2014.

Daily or near daily use is defined as 20 or more times in the past 30 days. Past month and past year use of marijuana also increased (21 percent and 34 percent respectively in 2014) while the percentage of all 19-22 year old high school graduates who view regular marijuana as dangerous decreased from 55 percent in 2006 to 35 percent in 2014.

The findings presented are drawn from Chapters 8 and 9 in a newly-published monograph of the survey, now in its 41st year.

Here are some additional survey results from the U of M’s news release:

  • College students’ non-medical use of amphetamines in the prior 12 months nearly doubled between 2008 (when 5.7 percent said they used) and 2012 (when 11.1 percent used), before leveling at 10.1 percent in 2014.
  • Ecstasy had somewhat of a comeback in use among college students from 2007 through 2012, with past 12-month use more than doubling from 2.2 percent in 2007 to 5.8 percent in 2012, before leveling.
  • Past-year use of cocaine showed a statistically significant increase from 2.7 percent in 2013 to 4.4 percent in 2014.
  • The use of synthetic marijuana has been dropping sharply since its use was first measured in 2011. At that time, 7.4 percent of college students indicated having used synthetic marijuana in the prior 12 months; by 2014 the rate had fallen to just 0.9 percent, including a significant decline in use in 2014. One reason for the decline in synthetic drug use, the report states, is that an increasing number of young people see it as dangerous.
  • The non-medical use of narcotic drugs—which has accounted for an increasing number of deaths in recent years according to official statistics—actually has been declining among college students, falling from 8.8 percent reporting past-year use in 2006 down to 4.8 percent by 2014. There is no evidence of a shift over from narcotic drugs to heroin use in this population. Use of heroin has been very low among college students over the past five years or so—lower than it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Although cigarette smoking continued to decrease, the percentage of college students smoking tobacco in a hookah in the past year increased from 26 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2014. Approximately 1 in 10 reported past month us of e-cigarettes (9.7 percent) and flavored little cigars (9.8 percent).

Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study, said, “There is some more welcome news for parents as they send their children off to college this fall. Perhaps the most important is that five out of every 10 college students have not used any illicit drug in the past year, and more than three quarters have not used any in the prior month.”

Other MTF reports and information about the survey is available at


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