Binge drinking among adults aged 35 to 50 occurred at record prevalence in 2022, according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health. A new study found that nearly 30 percent of people in this age group reported binge drinking in 2022, continuing a consistent upward trend in the behavior. In 2012, 23 percent of such adults reported binge drinking.
Use of marijuana in this group also reached historical levels, with 28 percent reporting the behavior, up from 13 percent in 2012. In 2022, 4 percent of adults in this group reported using a hallucinogen, double the figure in 2021.
The survey also looked at behavior among adults 19 to 30 years old. For this group, use of marijuana in 2022 was significantly greater, at 44 percent, up from 28 percent in 2012. But their self-reported binge drinking had fallen to 30.5 percent, down from 35.2 percent a decade earlier.
Why It Matters: Alcohol-related deaths have risen among people 65 and older.
Different generations use different drugs and at different levels. “Drug use trends evolve over decades and across development, from adolescent to adulthood,” said Megan Patrick, a research professor at the University of Michigan and principal investigator on the study, known as Monitoring the Future.
The research has been supported since 1975 by the National Institutes of Drug Abuse, or NIDA, which is a part of the N.I.H. NIDA typically draws attention for its study of behavior and drug use patterns among young people in middle and high school. But the research also follows people throughout their lives, looking at the use of alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and other substances.
“It’s important to track this so that public health professionals and communities can be prepared to respond,” Dr. Patrick said.
The implications of what drugs a generation tends to use can be significant. For instance, a recent study found that alcohol-related deaths continued to increase among people 65 and older, with deaths among women in this age group rising at a faster rate than among men.
The study suggests that substance-use behavior is heavily influenced by the culture of a generation and the legal status of various drugs at various periods of life. For instance, among the adults aged 35 to 50, the 50-year-olds had tried marijuana the least — only 68 percent of them reported having used it sometime in their life. “These respondents graduated from high school in 1990, when marijuana and other drugs were at or near historical lows across the past four decades, suggesting a cohort effect,” the study noted.
Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA, said in a news release that the data from this study and others like it can inform how health officials and individuals address the risks posed at different life stages. “We want to ensure that people from the earliest to the latest stages in adulthood are equipped with up-to-date knowledge to help inform decisions related to substance abuse,” Dr. Volkow said.