More adults than ever are using hallucinogens, a new national survey suggests.
Among surveyed adults ages 19 to 30, 8% reported using hallucinogens like LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, PCP, shrooms or psilocybin sometime in 2022. So did 4% of 35- to 50-year-olds.
These numbers are higher than seen in any recent Monitoring the Future panel study, a nationally representative study that has been ongoing since 1975 and surveys its participants every other year from senior year of high school until the age of 30 and then every five years after that. The oldest participants are now in their 60s, and about 28,500 total participants are surveyed each year.
The most recent results suggest that hallucinogens are growing in popularity. Five years ago, the number of under-30 adults who reported using hallucinogens within the preceding year was 5%. Ten years ago, it was 3%. Likewise, among the 35 to 50 age group, reported hallucinogen use rose from 1% or less in 2012 and 2017 to 4% in 2022.
"Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan," Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds the study, said in a statement. "Understanding these trends is a first step, and it is crucial that research continues to illuminate how substance use and related health impacts may change over time. We want to ensure that people from the earliest to the latest stages in adulthood are equipped with up-to-date knowledge to help inform decisions related to substance use."
The latest survey also revealed that binge drinking is declining among the younger adult group but is on the rise in the over-35s, with 29% of those ages 35 to 50 reporting consuming five or more drinks on one occasion (for men) or four or more drinks on one occasion (for women) in the past year.
Marijuana use reached its highest prevalence ever recorded among both age groups, with 44% of 19- to 30-year-olds reporting using marijuana in the past year. That's an increase from 35% in 2017 and 28% in 2012. Among 35- to 50-year-olds, 28% reported using marijuana within the last year, an increase from 17% in 2017 and 13% in 2012.
Cigarette use continued to decline in both age groups, following a 10-year trend, but nicotine vaping hit a high in 2022, the study found, with 24% of young adults reporting nicotine vaping in 2022. In 2017, the first time the survey asked about vaping, the prevalence was 14%. Only about 7% of 35- to 50-year-olds reported vaping nicotine, similar to what was found in 2017.
The full report is available via Monitoring the Future.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.