College-age kids are drinking less alcohol – but smoking more marijuana

Young adults aren’t drinking as much as they used to. In fact, more than a quarter don’t drink alcohol at all, recent surveys show.

It’s good news for health. But there is also a downside in the data: While alcohol use is falling among 18-to-22-year-olds, marijuana use is inching upward. The number of young adults using both alcohol and marijuana is also rising, heightening concerns about a future surge in substance abuse problems, new research shows.

I am a professor of psychology at Texas State University who has been studying young adult and adolescent substance use for over 15 years. A key interest of mine is how substance use changes over adolescence and young adulthood. It is a period of profound change: A 13-year-old is very different from a 25-year-old in nearly every way.

With colleagues at the University of Michigan, the University of Central Florida and Iowa State University, I have been investigating trends in alcohol and marijuana use in young adults to better understand how use changes with age. The latest numbers offer both…

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