Unlike constant rates of marijuana and alcohol use, nicotine vaping in high school seniors decreased throughout the pandemic, as did the reported availability of vaping equipment at the time. In all states, the legal purchasing age for nicotine and alcohol is 21, and in places where nonmedical cannabis usage is permitted, the legal purchasing age is 21.
Reducing Teens’ Use Of Drugs By Limiting The Supply
According to NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., last year brought major changes to the lives of teenagers, as many stayed at home with parents and other family members full-time.
Despite this momentous shift and teenagers’ perceived declines in marijuana and alcohol availability, use rates for both drugs remained stable. This suggests that teenagers were able to get them despite the pandemic’s restrictions and despite not being of legal purchasing age.
The research’s data comes from the yearly Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of teenage drug use behaviors and attitudes in the United States. In a typical year, MTF polls thousands of middle and high school students in the spring at over a hundred schools around the country. MTF has been tracking changes in drug usage for 46 years.
To measure the impact of the pandemic, the researcher administered a survey that 12th graders may complete outside of school between mid-July and mid-August 2020. This summer survey followed up on investigators’ normal MTF spring survey, which gathered data between mid-February and mid-March 2020 before being cut short due to COVID-19-related school closures.
Of the 3,770 12th students who answered in the spring, 582 completed a summer follow-up survey. All of the data and statistical analyses utilized in the study were weighted to ensure that they were nationally representative.
According to the analysis of the replies, students noticed a significant drop in the availability of marijuana and alcohol in the months after the start of the pandemic. The proportion of students who reported fairly or very easy access to marijuana fell by 17 percentage points, from 76 percent in the spring before the pandemic to 59 percent during the pandemic, and the proportion of students who reported fairly or very easy access to alcohol fell by 24 percentage points, from 86 percent to 62 percent.
These were the biggest year-to-year declines in perceived marijuana and alcohol availability ever reported since the poll began in 1975. Before 2020, the biggest reported declines in marijuana were barely two percentage points and one percentage point in alcohol.
There was also a significant decline in respondents who indicated they could reasonably or very readily get a vaping device throughout the spring and summer of 2020, down from 73 percent before the pandemic to 63 percent during the pandemic.
Despite claimed decreases in marijuana and alcohol availability, levels of usage did not alter much. Before the pandemic, 23% of students indicated they had used marijuana in the previous 30 days, compared to 20% during the pandemic. In the case of alcohol, 17% reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks before the pandemic, compared to 13% during the pandemic.
However, there was a moderate and substantial drop in nicotine vaping: before the pandemic, 24% of respondents indicated they had vaped nicotine in the previous 30 days, compared to 17% during the pandemic.
The study’s authors attribute the ongoing use of these drugs to the widespread availability of alcohol and marijuana, even throughout the pandemic. While pandemic-related limitations hampered social contacts, and despite record-breaking declines in perceived availability among participants, the majority of students reported having access to marijuana and alcohol.
Furthermore, the authors speculate that as the drugs grew scarcer, the student’s efforts to get them may have increased.