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NIDA. (2019, March 4). Choices Matter—At Any Age. Retrieved from

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The NIDA Blog Team
March 4 2019
Infographic section 4 Alcohol use in college students is higher than in their non-college peers. 2017 Monitoring the Future College Students and Young Adults Survey Results. Alcohol Use Per Month. Alcohol mixed with energy drinks past year.
Image by NIDA.

As a teen, you might sometimes picture yourself as a young adult—from age 18 to your early 20s—and wonder what your life will be like then.

One thing’s for sure: You’ll have more freedom to choose what you do. Whether you plan to go to college or not, there will probably be fewer restrictions on the choices you make.

So, what kinds of choices will you make?

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, those choices will be just as important as they are in your teen years. Your brain keeps growing until about age 25, and the effects of drug use can have consequences that last the rest of your life.

In 2017, NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future survey asked young adults (ages 19–22) if they’d used any drugs in the month before the survey was taken, and if they did, which ones they used. The results show that most young adults are choosing not to use drugs. That’s good news for their health.

Some other young adults are making risky choices, and those choices can be different for those who go to college and those who don’t. Check out the details below.

Daily or near-daily marijuana use among non-college young adults has continued to rise, reaching its highest level yet (13.2 percent). As a result, daily or near-daily marijuana use is now nearly three times as high among non-college young adults as it is among college students.

The largest difference between college and non-college groups is for smoking cigarettes. Daily smoking for the non-college group is higher than for college students (14.4 percent vs. 2 percent). Vaping nicotine is slightly higher for non-college young adults compared to college students (7.9 percent vs. 6 percent). 

Synthetic drug use is lower in college students than in non-college peers. Use of synthetic cannabinoids (K2/Spice) is 0.5 percent vs. 2.4 percent, and use of synthetic cathinones (bath salts) is 0.2 percent vs. 1.5 percent.

College students use alcohol at higher rates than non-college peers (62 percent vs. 56.4 percent). Also, mixing alcohol with energy drinks appears to be higher among college students than the non-college group (31.5 percent vs. 26.7 percent).

The choices you make about your health are the most important choices you make at any age. So, when you picture yourself as a young adult, picture yourself making healthy choices.

Learn why (and how) to resist drug use in college.