Despite Perceived Decrease in Availability, Adolescent Marijuana Use Remained Steady During Pandemic

Monitoring the Future Survey Showed Consistent Alcohol and Pot Use Among Teenagers


A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that adolescent marijuana and alcohol use remained the same during the pandemic despite a noted decrease in availability. According to the June 24, 2021 press release, marijuana use and binge drinking among adolescents surveyed “did not significantly change” during COVID-19. 

The study, however, did indicate “record decreases in the substances’ perceived availability.” Researchers believe that this disproves the notion that a perceived decrease in supply alone will help reduce drug and alcohol use among teens. The survey did find a decrease in nicotine vaping with 12th graders.

Access Despite Barriers

Data from the study revealed that teens were able to get their hands on drugs and alcohol, despite having their social lives come to a sudden halt. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools, after-school programs, parks, and other recreational activities. These barriers did little to slow the use of these substances.

The Monitoring the Future survey typically includes data from thousands of adolescents in the country. The most recent data was from a follow-up survey completed by 582 12th graders between mid-July and mid-August 2020, according to the NIH. An initial study was given between mid-February and mid-March 2020. Over 3,700 12th graders responded to the initial survey.

No Significant Changes

This year’s survey showed that 20% of respondents indicated that they had used marijuana within the past 30 days, compared with 23% the previous year. 13% of the students said that they had engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks, compared to 17% pre-pandemic.

The good news to come out of the survey was that reported nicotine vaping decreased from 24% of students surveyed pre-pandemic to 17% in 2020.