As the crusade to legalize marijuana nationwide continues, new data from the University of Michigan has revealed that use of the drug is already on the rise among one demographic: college students.
The study, which builds on annual data from the National Institute of Health’s Monitoring the Future Panel Survey, found recent marijuana use among college students is now at the highest level it’s been in over three decades. In 2018, according to the research, 43 percent of college students reported using marijuana once in the past 12 months, while 25 percent reported using it in the past 30 days — the highest numbers recorded by the survey since the 1980s.
Even more worrisome to the researchers was a major spike in the vaping of marijuana among this age group, specifically from 2017 to 2018, when, the study found, the number of college students who reported vaping marijuana in the past 30 days increased from 5.2 percent to 10.9 percent.
“This doubling in vaping marijuana among college students is one of the greatest one-year proportional increases we have seen among the multitude of substances we measure since the study began over 40 years ago,” John Schulenberg, principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future Panel Study, said in a statement.
The study’s authors do not narrow down one specific cause for the increase, but suggest that lowered “perception of risk” about the harms of marijuana play a role. While some of that is warranted (marijuana has been shown to be safer than alcohol and tobacco) using it still comes with risk.
Multiple studies have shown it to be potentially damaging to brain development, specifically in teens, and — in recent months — medical professionals have begun reporting serious potential damage to lungs from certain vaping products that contain it. Just this week in New York, investigators revealed that a “severe lung illness” appearing in young people has been tied to an ingredient derived from Vitamin E that has appeared in multiple brands of marijuana vape pens.
The ingredient, which is not derived from THC, is now the suspected cause of two deaths (one in Illinois and one in Oregon). It’s just one facet of a troubling vaping epidemic — and although the majority are tied to e-cigarette use, the CDC is now warning users against buying THC vaping products from “off the street” as well.
While marijuana — now medically legal in 33 states — has many safe, proven health benefits for adults, it remains unclear whether or not vaping it is safe, or whether use of it in college may act as a gateway to more dangerous drugs.
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