Adult-Use Marijuana Laws Associated with Less Binge Drinking by Young Adults on College Campuses

Corvallis, OR: The enactment of adult-use cannabis access laws is associated with decreasing rates of binge drinking by college students ages 21 or older, according to data published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Researchers affiliated with Oregon State University compared self-reported drug and alcohol use among nearly one million college students over ten years (2008 to 2018). They reported that binge drinking prevalence among those between the ages of 21 and 26 fell by ten percent in jurisdictions where adult-use cannabis access was regulated as compared to other states. Investigators reported no increase in the use of any controlled substances other than marijuana, except for the use of sedatives by those under the age of 21.

Authors concluded: “[F]or students ages 21 years and over, binge drinking decreased following RML (recreational marijuana legalization). … We speculate that legalizing recreational marijuana use may temper this [increased alcohol use by minors after they reach the legal drinking age] effect, such that college students over the age of 21 who otherwise would have engaged in binge drinking continue using marijuana instead. … [A] substitution effect of RML on college students’ binge drinking could have important public health implications.”

Full text of the study, “Trends in college students’ alcohol, nicotine, prescription opioid and other drug use after recreational marijuana legalization: 2008-2018,” appears in Addictive Behaviors.