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As we focus on sober living, earlier this week we noted the University of Michigan reports that students’ marijuana use “was at the highest levels seen in the past three decades in 2016, and that trend remained true in 2017, according to the annual national Monitoring the Future Panel Study.”

Importantly, the annual study also examined illicit drug use in college, highlighting that “in 2017, use of most substances remained steady or decreased somewhat.”

Sober Living Challenges

Study results include:

Annual use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was 18 percent in 2017 for college and noncollege youth. It has declined somewhat for both groups since recent highs in 2014.The 2017 annual prevalence of nonmedical use of prescription narcotic drugs (other than heroin), such as OxyContin and Vicodin, was 3.1 percent for college students and 4.1 percent for noncollege youth, the lowest levels reported since the late 1990s.

In contrast to what is true for most other illicit drugs, nonmedical amphetamine use has been higher among college than noncollege youth in recent years. The 2017 annual prevalence was 8.6 percent for college students and 7.3 percent for noncollege youth.

Annual prevalence of MDMA (ecstasy and more recently “Molly”) declined significantly for college and noncollege youth between 2016 and 2017, from 4.7 to 2.5 percent for college students and from 8.6 to 4.7 percent for noncollege youth.

Alcohol continues to remain the drug of choice among college students. In 2017, 33 percent of college students reported binge drinking—defined as having five or more drinks per occasion at least once in the past two weeks. This declined gradually over the years, and is more common among college males than females, and among college students than noncollege youth.

Across 2012 through 2017 combined, 10.1 percent of college students reported high intensity drinking (10 or more drinks per occasion in the past two weeks). Such use has declined somewhat over the past decade; it is more common among college males than females, and similar among college and noncollege youth. “There is good and bad news regarding alcohol use among college students. Alcohol use continues to gradually decline, but excessive drinking clearly remains the major substance use problem on campuses,” Schulenberg said. “Having 10 or more drinks in a row, which has been happening for one-in-six college males at least once per two-week period, can result in alcohol poisoning, serious accidents, and a host of unwise decisions and dangerous behaviors that adversely affect them and those around them.”

In 2017, 30-day cigarette smoking among college students was 7.9 percent, a record low since 1980, consistent with the continuing decline over the past 18 years. It is much higher among noncollege youth, with 30-day cigarette use being 22 percent in 2017. Based on new questions regarding vaping nicotine added to the surveys in 2017, 30-day prevalence was slightly higher among noncollege youth (7.9 percent) than college students (6.0 percent). Cigarette smoking and vaping nicotine were higher among males than females in both groups.

The challenge around sober living can be great. These results indicate that illicit drug use remains a difficult problem. Creating the avenues to sober living often takes time… and help.