Despite the increasing number of states legalizing cannabis, adolescent cannabis use dropped significantly in 2021. A survey by Monitoring The Future – a government-funded annual check-in with 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders across the country – shows a 38% decline year-over-year in self-reported marijuana use among 8th- and 10th-graders. For 12th-graders, there was a 13% decline. The reduction in usage comes despite pandemic-related mental health concerns.
The study also discovered that U.S. students across all age groups also reported increases in “anxiety, boredom, depression, difficulty sleeping, loneliness, worry, and other negative mental health indicators” since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data highlight an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented shifts in adolescents’ day-to-day lives.
“It will be crucial to identify the pivotal elements of this past year that contributed to decreased drug use – whether related to drug availability, family involvement, differences in peer pressure, or other factors – and harness them to inform future prevention efforts,” said Nora Volkow, National Institute on Drug Abuse director.
Monitoring the Future’s survey is funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The report also showed declining cannabis use coincided with a decrease in teenagers’ underage use of drugs like alcohol and vaped nicotine.
“[M]arijuana regulation policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director for cannabis advocacy group NORML.
The Monitoring the Future survey asks students to self-report their substance use behaviors and approval or disapproval of their use, perception of drug-related harms, and perceived availability. The data from each survey is released at the end of the year it was collected.