Bud Over Beer: College Binge-Drinking Decreases in States With Legal Cannabis

By Rita Thompson


As benefits of the flower continue to blossom, college students in legal states are trading in beer for bud. 

College Students, Consumption Habits, and Legal and Non-Legal Markets

According to a recent Oregon State University (OSU) study, colleges in states with legal adult-use cannabis markets are seeing increased consumption of the plant, but decreased binge-drinking. 

Noting the lack of research on the effects of legalization on consumption habits, the study’s researchers analyzed data from almost 900,000 students in and outside of legal recreational states between 2008-2019. 

“Our study was motivated, in part, because there was a lack of studies examining the effects of [recreational marijuana legalization] on marijuana use and other substance use even after seven years of passage for these laws,” Harold Bae, author of the study and assistant professor of biostatistics at OSU, told Healthline

Binge Drinking on Campus

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), drinking by college students ages 18-24 contributes to an estimated 1,519 student deaths each year. Furthermore, 36.9% of college students reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month.

The Findings…

When compared to non-legal states, college students in legal states were 18% more likely to consume cannabis in the past 30 days. Additionally, students in legal states were 17% more likely to use frequently—i.e. on 20 out of the past 30 days. 

The most significant of the findings, however, was the decline in binge drinking within states that have legalized recreational cannabis. The NIAAA defines Binge-drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men—in about two hours.”

Students in legal recreational states were 6% less likely to binge drink when compared to those in non-legal states. The amount of time since specific states legalized recreational use also had an effect on the reduction rate of binge-drinking. 

Binge-drinking is the most common pattern of alcohol abuse in the U.S.. It’s time to recognize cannabis’ ability to combat some of this behavior. 

Emerald contributor since June 2019


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