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  • A new study says binge drinking rates among college students are dropping significantly in states where marijuana is legalized.
  • Researchers looked at data from seven different states and 135 colleges where marijuana was legalized by the year 2018 as well as 41 states and 454 colleges where recreational marijuana use was not legal by the year 2018.
  • They used data from the National College Health Assessment survey from 2008-2018, which asks students to answer questions anonymously about their drug and alcohol use.
  • Researchers found that students 21 and older in states where marijuana is legalized showed a greater drop in binge-drinking than students in states where it is not legalized.
  • The research team notes that another study showed that illegal marijuana use decreases once people hit 21 because they are now legally allowed to drink alcohol.
  • They explain that a barrier that was in the way of alcohol use disappears, while it remains intact for marijuana use; however, when marijuana is legalized, this dynamic changes drastically, as alcohol isn’t the only legal substance
  • Further research is needed to observe trends over time, as marijuana becomes legalized in additional states.

Quick Summary

A new study from Oregon State University, “Marijuana use trends among college students in states with and without legalization of recreational use: initial and longer-term changes from 2008 to 2018,” found that binge drinking rates among college students are dropping significantly in states where marijuana is legalized.

Binge-drinking can lead to heart disease, cancer, brain damage, alcohol use disorder or addiction, physical injuries, mental illnesses like depression, and have other negative effects on an individual’s wellbeing.

Goals and Investigation

This is the first research of its kind, in that it is the first study to look at multiple states where marijuana is legalized and how this has affected college students a year later. To be more specific, researchers looked at data from seven different states and 135 colleges where marijuana was legalized by the year 2018; they also looked at 41 states and 454 colleges where recreational marijuana use was not legal by 2018.

The research team looked into specific trends in states where marijuana was legalized early on, as well as states where marijuana was legalized more recently. They used data from the National College Health Assessment survey from 2008-2018, which asks students to answer questions anonymously about their drug and alcohol use. Over 850,000 students responded to this survey.

Findings

The researchers observed several interesting findings:

  • Students aged 21 and older in states where marijuana is legalized showed a greater drop in binge-drinking than students in states where marijuana is not legalized.
  • Both occasional and frequent use of marijuana among college students continued to rise beyond first year of legalization.
  • Students in states where marijuana is legal were 18% more likely to have used marijuana in the past 30 days than students in non-legalized marijuana states.
  • The researchers found that older students (ages 21-26) were 23% more likely to report using marijuana in states where marijuana use is not legalized.
  • Female students and those who lived off campus were also more likely to report using marijuana in states where marijuana use is not legalized.

Researchers note that another study showed that illegal marijuana use decreases once people hit 21 because they are now legally allowed to drink alcohol. They explain that a barrier that was in the way of alcohol use disappears, while it remains intact for marijuana use. They see in this study that when marijuana is legal, the dynamic changes drastically.

Limitations

  • The research team notes that additional research is needed to see how these trends might change over time, as more and more states legalize marijuana.

Sources

Kerr, D. C. Bae, H. (2019, December 13). Marijuana use trends among college students in states with and without legalization of recreational use: initial and longer-term changes from 2008 to 2018. Addiction. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/add.14939

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is Senior Writer and Editor at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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