Marijuana use rises among students

mj-picAs it turns out, your parents might have been rowdier than your current college self.

According to a 40 year study conducted by the University of Michigan, high school to college age students are much less likely to use illegal opioids and amphetamines than their parents probably were. The study reported that over 70 percent of people between the ages of 40 and 50 have used illegal, illicit drugs in their lifetime. While over half of this age group experimented with illegal drugs during their college years, today only around 40 percent of college aged students admitted trying illegal drugs.

The considerable drop in the use of these hard drugs is partly due to increasing awareness of the dangers and negative side effects. Internet, government-funded programs, and educational school requirements are the most noteworthy causes for the increased awareness among millennials.

University of San Diego sophomore Caroline Gallagher shared that she was interested to hear about the outcomes of this study.

“I feel like you hear people talk about ‘back in the day,’ and you think about Woodstock, hippies, and drugs, and I feel like people were just so much less aware,” Gallagher said. “I don’t think people use hard drugs to the extent of what they did in the ‘70s, but it is definitely still present. People are still going to do them; it might be less of a thing, but it is not totally gone.”

Equally noteworthy is the decline in abuse of prescription drugs. In 2003, almost nine percent of college students reported having experimented with prescription drugs. In a 2015 Michigan follow-up study, this percentage dropped to just over three percent.

As the percentage of users of illicit drugs, such as amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and other opioids, has declined, the use of marijuana is on steady incline. This surge is due to the decrease in the perception of the dangers of using marijuana. Research has shown that the legalization of marijuana has created conflicting messages. While there are various health and medical benefits of the drug, studies continue to show that, if overused or abused, pot can cause memory loss, alter emotions, or lead to dependency.

Senior Keely Palla shared that she believes that the evolution of societal behaviors and mentalities have altered the way certain drugs are used.

“Our generation is lucky enough to have a society [that] encourages natural freedom of expression and eccentricity,” Palla said. “I believe this provides us with the opportunity to more openly portray ourselves without the need for hard alternative measures to deal with hiding ourselves.”

According to the Michigan study, the use of marijuana on a daily basis among college students is also at the highest rate in almost three decades. At the time of the study, almost six percent of students admitted to using marijuana 20 or more times within a time frame of 30 days.

Gallagher explained that she thinks there has been a spike in daily usage of marijuana among college students.

“I think so many people think they can be fully functioning individuals while they are high and just go to class and get on with their day,” Gallagher said.

“Also, now that it’s legal in so many states, it is becoming such a norm, and it is not as frowned upon as it used to be, so people might still be kind of experimenting with it in a much more open environment.”

The generational changes in perception of most drug usage is undeniable. However, this study reported that attitudes toward cocaine have remained somewhat steady. The perceived risk of experimental and occasional usage remained quite low until around 1986 when it became widely known that the drug had the potential to become addictive.

After this, the usage of cocaine hit a small decline. After a few  years, the perceived risk began to re-stabilize and  returned to the idea that the experimental use cocaine  was relatively low-risk.

Factors such as government education, widespread  use of internet, and  changes in cultural norms have  altered  the way  people use drugs through  various generations. While there is a staggering  decrease  in  the   use of  hard  drugs, the   consistent use and abuse of  marijuana has taken over  millennials.

Written by Abby Gentry, Asst. News Editor