Why More Young Adults are Abstaining from Alcohol and Smoking Cannabis Instead

  • Last modified: January 21, 2021

A recent study published in Science Daily – reposted from the University of Michigan – found that since 2002, young adults between 18-22 are abstaining from alcohol at a higher rate lately. On the other hand, their use of cannabis has increased.

While for the clinical researcher, “complete abstinence” is the ideal situation, one can argue that a decreased prevalence of alcohol consumption on college campuses is a good thing. They found that in 2002, 20% of participants claimed that they abstained from consuming alcohol.

In 2018, that number had risen to 28%. Similar findings were true for those who were not attending college.

“We’re encouraged by the significant decreases in alcohol use disorder — for both college and noncollege students,” said lead author Sean Esteban McCabe, director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health at the U-M School of Nursing.

“The prevalence of alcohol use disorder in both groups in 2018 was roughly half of what it was in 2002. We are excited to learn about these drops in disordered drinking, as alcohol-related consequences are one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity for young adults.”Source

A different ballgame

Researchers are optimistic about the decreasing of alcohol consumption within the age group, however, they have started noticing that some people tend to use multiple substance which they dubbed “Polysubstance abuse”.

In essence, if you’re smoking a joint, drinking a beer and having a cigarette – you’re a polysubstance user.

This is something that researchers are claiming to be a development that is of “concern”. However, I remember that polysubstance use was all the rage since – forever!

Do you think that the hippies were just smoking weed or dropping acid? When I was in that age group, I too was a polysubstance abuser. I say, “abuser” because I certainly wouldn’t do the same amount of drugs these days as I would consider it – “abusing”.

But back then, it was easy to make a cocktail of drugs and party throughout the weekend. These days I know better. And by no means am I endorsing people of that age group to consume these drugs – quite the opposite. These days I have learned to respect those substances and to use it mindfully, for personal development and Holotropic healing.

Nonetheless – the researchers are finding that polysubstance use is one of their concern, however I’d argue that pharmaceutical abuse should be a higher “point of concern”.

Legal Drugs should be a higher concern than weed

Legal drugs like Adderall have become a major drug people within the 18-25 year old category consume. I remember, back in high school I would drop an Addy every now and then but if you look at the stats you’ll notice that it’s becoming far more prevalent these days.

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2016 analyzed the period from 2006 to 2011, where researchers saw that non-prescribed use of Adderall by young adults went up by 67 percent and associated emergency room visits rose by 156 percent. – Source

When writing this article, I tried to find any follow up study on this issue but can’t seem to find any else.

Apart from turning to these kinds of prescription drugs, there are other reasons why young adults prefer cannabis over alcohol.

Cannabis doesn’t give you hangovers

In a highly competitive marketplace, hangovers is a disadvantage. While the illusion of the “college campus bingers” may ring true in Hollywood, the truth is that most people are so worried about student debt that drinking isn’t their biggest concern.

If they were to miss a class because they were too wasted – they would have essentially indebted themselves for nothing. However, cannabis allows you to enjoy some recreational bliss, detach from the stress momentarily, and be 100% the next morning when you awake.

In fact, smoking cannabis could be seen as a plus – allowing you to cope with the stress of going to college and with a heavy workload. Furthermore, modern vaping devices makes cannabis consumption incredibly simple, portable and discreet.

The modern college student knows that the medicinal value of cannabis far exceeds the recreational benefits of alcohol and it’s healthier for you overall.


Firstly, these are youth from 18-25 we’re talking about. This is literally their first steps into adulthood. The fact that people are choosing to smoke weed over drinking should make everybody ecstatic. Sure, I don’t recommend 18-year olds smoking bongs like I did when I was their age…but if I have to choose between them smoking a few bong hits versus drinking a bottle of tequila – Bong hits win every time!

The climate may have swayed in favor of cannabis among young adults, but considering that alcohol is linked to 40% of all violent crimes according to the FBI…maybe that’s not a bad thing?

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