1 in 5 Young Adults Say They Use Marijuana: Survey

Lisa O'Mary

January 05, 2023

Nearly 1 in 5 people in the U.S. age 12 or older said they used marijuana in 2021, according to new federal survey results.

Among the 52 million people who said they used marijuana in the past year, young adults ages 18 to 25 were the most likely to report doing so, at 35%. That age group was also the most likely to report having a mental illness in the past year, at 34%.

The findings were part of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Wednesday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

"As the findings make clear, millions of Americans young and old faced mental health and substance use challenges – sometimes both at once – during the second year of the pandemic," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

The survey took place both in person and online, and due to changes in how it was done, officials said the data cannot be accurately compared to the results of previous years. But there were many signs that drug use and mental illness increased with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, the 2021 survey results showed that 57.8% of people age 12 or older currently use tobacco, alcohol, or an illicit drug, including 47.5% who said they drink alcohol, 19.5% who said they use tobacco products, and 14.3% who said they use illicit drugs. Current use was defined as using a substance within the month before taking the survey.

In addition to being the most prevalent age group among marijuana users and those with mental illness, 18- to 25-year-olds were the most likely to have a substance use disorder in the past year. The survey showed that 94% of people with a substance use disorder did not get treatment, and researchers wrote that "nearly all people with a substance use disorder who did not get treatment at a specialty facility did not think they needed treatment."


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: "2021 National Survey of Drug Use and Health,"

"SAMHSA Announces National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Results Detailing Mental Illness and Substance Use Levels in 2021."


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