New Research Data Shows Cannabis and Hallucinogen Usage Rates Continue to Rise Among Adults

Addict sits in a dark room

Examining drug use trends across America is important because it gives public health officials, policymakers, and concerned citizens insight into which drugs are being used the most and what new drugs may be on the horizon. According to an August 2023 report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cannabis, hallucinogens, and alcohol are the three most frequently reported drugs being used by both young adults and middle-aged adults.

Despite Known Harms, Americans Increasingly Experiment with Cannabis, Hallucinogens, and Alcohol

In 2022, the use of cannabis and hallucinogens among adults 35 to 50 reached a new all-time high, continuing an upward trajectory that had been present for years. Meanwhile, among young adults, the use of cannabis and hallucinogens also escalated, reaching new highs for this age group as well.

Last but not least, despite a reported ten-year decline in binge drinking of alcohol among young people, adults 35 to 50 reported the highest-ever prevalence of binge drinking in this age group since recording began.

People at a party, high

The findings suggest certain mind-altering substances are growing in popularity despite efforts by public health officials to prevent their use. “Substance use is not limited to teens and young adults, and these data help us understand how people use drugs across the lifespan,” said NIDA director Nora Volkow, M.D. “Understanding these trends is a first step, and it is crucial that research continues to illuminate how substance use and related health impacts may change over time. 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 use.” To Dr. Volkow’s point, it is crucial to inform and educate the public on the harmful side effects of cannabis, hallucinogens, and alcohol.

Cannabis Use and Attendant Harm

According to the research, 44% of adults between the ages of 19 and 30 used cannabis in 2022, an increase from 35% in 2017 and 28% in 2012. Daily use of marijuana also escalated, with 11% of adults in this age group reporting daily use (compared to 8% in 2017 and 6% in 2012).

Marijuana use also increased among middle-aged adults. Among adults 35 to 50, 28% used cannabis in 2022. This figure was significantly greater than in 2017 (17%) and 2012 (13%).

Cannabis has known harmful side effects. Short-term effects include:

  • Altered senses
  • Changes in mood
  • Reduced coordination
  • Altered sense of time
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis

Long-term effects can include permanent memory loss and permanent changes in brain structure and function, including reduced IQ and hampered cognitive capacity.

Hallucinogen Use and Attendant Harm

According to the research, among adults ages 19 to 30, 8% reported using hallucinogens, significantly higher than five years ago (5% in 2017) and ten years ago (just 3% in 2012). The most frequently reported hallucinogens of choice included LSD, MDMA, mescaline, peyote, shrooms (psilocybin), and PCP.

Hallucinogen use is also on the rise among middle-aged American adults. For adults 35 to 50, 4% used hallucinogens in 2022. This figure is more than double the percentage of adults in this age group who used hallucinogens in 2021 and four times the percentage who used hallucinogens in 2017 and 2012.

Man hallucinating

Hallucinogens can produce many different side effects depending on what type of hallucinogen one uses. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that effects may be difficult to predict because users can never truly know what is in the hallucinogen they’re using. Effects also vary depending on how much of the drug a user consumes. But some of the more commonly reported effects include:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Feeling disconnected from one’s body and mind
  • Seeing shapes, colors, and scenes that are not there
  • Some loss of cognitive function and problem-solving skills
  • Debilitating emotions such as extreme fear and anxiety coupled with psychosis
  • Dangerous behavior leading to injuries such as falls, car accidents, and drownings

Long-term effects of using hallucinogens include chronic anxiety and paranoia and a potential for a permanent state of dissociation or psychosis that may not respond to treatments or medical interventions.

Alcohol Use and Attendant Harm

For almost a decade, research showed a year-over-year decline in instances of alcohol consumption among all young adult age groups in the United States. Unfortunately, it seems this trend has changed recently. In 2022, 84% of young adults aged 19 to 30 reported binge drinking, compared to 82% in 2017.

The situation is even worse for middle-aged adults. In 2022, 85% of adults 35 to 50 reported drinking alcohol, an uptick from 83% in 2012. Further, binge drinking, or drinking alcohol to excess, is also on the rise for this age group. About 29% (almost one in three adults in this age bracket) drank to excess in 2022, an increase from 26% in 2021, 25% in 2017, and 23% in 2012.

Drunk fight in a bar

Alcohol consumption has a long list of short-term and long-term effects. These effects vary considerably based on how often one drinks and how much they consume. In the short term, people who drink to excess are at risk for:

  • Injuries
  • Violence
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Legal complications and jail time

The long-term risks of alcohol consumption are many. Some examples include:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Several types of cancer
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease
  • Societal problems at work, at school, and in the family
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Liver disease and digestive problems, some of which can be fatal
  • Learning and memory problems, including memory loss, dementia, and poor performance at school or work
  • Weakening of the immune system, increased chances of contracting an illness while drinking and for up to 24 hours after

The Need for Treatment

As the use of cannabis, hallucinogens, and alcohol increases, Americans have good reason to be concerned. All of these substances are addictive, and the more people experiment with them, the more at risk they are of becoming addicted to such substances. Once addicted, they can no longer control how much of the substance they use or how often. Their risk for negative effects and serious harm escalates dramatically.

Help from addiction

If you know someone who uses mind-altering substances and who cannot stop using them on their own, please get in touch with a drug and alcohol rehab center as soon as possible, and please try to help your loved one enter such a facility. Addiction claims thousands of lives every year, so don’t wait until it is too late.


  • NIDA. “Marijuana and hallucinogen use, binge drinking reached historic highs among adults 35 to 50.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  • NIDA. “Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
  • NIDA. “Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  • CDC. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.