College kids are smoking more weed in legal states — but binge drinking less

Puff puff pass on the booze.

Undergrad students in states that have legalized marijuana are smoking more and more of it — and binge drinking less, new research finds.

In a study published Monday in the journal “Addiction,” Oregon State University researchers find that legalization has significantly increased an ongoing rise in college-aged pot smokers — including both frequent and occasional tokers — while simultaneously quelling their thirst.

Students aged 18 to 26 in states with legal marijuana were 18% more likely to have smoked in the past month and 17% more likely to have done it frequently (on 20 of the past 30 days) than students in states where weed remains illegal, scientists found.

This number escalated over time, too. Students in these states were 46% more likely to have smoked more marijuana than their illegally puffing peers after six years of legalization.

“In US states that enacted recreational marijuana legislation from 2012 to 2017 [such as Washington and Colorado], there was evidence for a general trend towards greater increases in marijuana use,” the study says, noting that the effect was more significant among older students aged 21 to 26 than minors aged 18 to 20.

Pothead students appeared to have traded one vice for another. The study found that they were less likely to binge drink — defined as having five or more drinks in a single sitting.

This bucks the usual trend of people picking up booze over weed when they turn 21, the researchers noted.

“In most states, once you reach 21, a barrier that was in the way of using alcohol is gone, while it’s intact for marijuana use. But when marijuana is legal, this dynamic is changed,” says Zoe Alley, an OSU doctoral candidate and the author of a companion study, in a press release. “For marijuana we saw state-specific increases that went beyond the nationwide increases, whereas binge drinking was the opposite: a greater decrease in the context of nationwide decreases.”

The findings surprised the study authors, who say further research is necessary to understand why legalization has this impact.

“It is surprising and important that these young adults are sensitive to this law. And it’s not explained by legal age, because minors changed, too,” says study author David Kerr.

The researchers looked at data from the 2008 to 2018 National College Health Assessment survey, which more than 850,000 students from 48 states and 589 colleges participated in.

Students in legal states may be helping their health by imbibing less, as binge drinking has been found to have unexpected consequences and can even rewrite DNA.

One demographic for whom binge drinking is not slowing: senior citizens, according to one recent study.

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