Results from nationwide surveys also show how daily cigarette use has been declining

The number of US university students who smoke cannabis on a near-daily basis is at its greatest for 35 years – and has even surpassed daily cigarette use, according to a recent study.

As part of the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, a series of national surveys showed use of the drug has been growing slowly on the nation’s campuses since 2006, with 5.9 per cent saying they smoke it almost every day – the highest number since 1980.

This figure is up considerably from 2007 when 3.5 per cent admitted to the same, meaning one in every 17 university students is now smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis.

Principal investigator of the study, Lloyd Johnston, described how it was clear to see the increase emerge over the past seven to eight years and said: “This largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors.”

The study acknowledged how the rise in the number of students using the drug more frequently may be down to how younger people view it: in 2006, 55 per cent of all 19 to 22-year-old high school graduates saw regular marijuana use as being dangerous, whereas only 35 per cent saw it as being the same by 2014. Relaxed marijuana policies in states across the country may also have contributed to the rise.

Across America, attitudes about the drug have been changing, with the states of Colorado and Washington voting to legalise recreational use in 2012. Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia have also followed suit.

The percentage of university students using any illicit drug also rose to 41 per cent in 2014, compared with 34 per cent in 2006 – an increase driven mostly by the uptick in marijuana use, the study said.

However, the use of many illicit drugs by these students has seen a sharp drop, including synthetic marijuana which decreased to 0.9 per cent in 2014 from 7.4 per cent in 2011 when it was first recorded. Heroin and LSD have also remained low in recent years.

Amphetamines – associated with studying – and ecstasy continued to be prevalent, although results showed how their use has been levelling out or declining.

When it came to the daily use of cigarettes, only 5 per cent indicated smoking at that level, compared with 19 per cent in 1999 – a drop of nearly three fourths.

Describing these findings as good news, Mr Johnston said the declines in smoking at university are largely the result of fewer of these students smoking when they were still in high school.

Past-year use of cocaine also showed a statistically significant increase from 2.7 per cent in 2013 to 4.4 per cent in 2014, which Mr Johnston said was being interpreted with caution as it has not occurred among high school students.

He added: “We do see some increase in cocaine use in other young adult age bands, so there may in fact be an increase in cocaine use beginning to occur.”

Additional reporting courtesy of Reuters