Young Adults And Alcohol In 2020

Historically, young adults and alcohol have meshed together like coffee and cream. Whether at a party or group outing, alcohol has always been a staple in American social events. Surprisingly, the trend seems to be changing. More Millennials and Gen Z are abstaining from alcohol more than ever before. They are cutting down or choosing not to drink at all.

Dubbed as the “Dry Generation,” 30% of college-aged adults are avoiding drinking. Traditionally, consuming alcohol was considered a right of passage into adulthood. Learning how to “hold your liquor” is a skill that takes practice and signifies maturity. Fast-forward to today; these newer generations are quickly doing away with the toxic tradition. Researchers found that alcohol abstinence between 16 to 24-year-olds increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015. They also discovered that alcohol abuse among the same age group decreased by 50% from 2002 to 2018. Why are young Americans drinking less?

Young Adults, Smoking Habits, And Illicit Drug Use

According to a study performed by the University of Michigan, the answer may be found in the “Dry Generation’s” smoking habits and illicit drug use. In the U.S., daily Marijuana use is up to 7.8%. The amount of cannabis users is the highest it’s been in over 40 years. There is also a rise in Amphetamine use. The misuse of Amphetamines like Ritalin and Adderall rose to about 3%. Hookah and e-vaporizers are also trending. Almost a fifth of young adults either vape or smoke hookah.

The trend to experiment with new substances among young adults is changing the nation’s traditional landscape. When experimenting, older generations like Baby Boomers or Gen X used to drink alcohol or smoke weed. Today, individuals are staying away from alcohol and trying new substances or mixing. The shift is giving rise to co-occurring disorders.

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through the BetterHelp links below.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


The Co-Occurring Disorder Trend Among Young Adults

The co-occurring disorder trend among young adults is climbing. A recent survey identified that 18% of college-age adults who drink and smoke weed enjoy being “crossfaded.” Being “crossfaded” is a slang term for getting drunk and high from Marijuana at the same time. Crossfading is glamorized by celebrities like Lil Wayne and Ryan Langdon. The trend has gained popularity among youth and is commonly seen in college parties.

Though being crossfaded is deemed as relatively harmless, it is far from it. People who smoke weed and drink are more likely to binge or develop an alcohol addiction. It also makes it difficult to gauge how intoxicated a person may be. The lack of symptoms can lead to negative outcomes like drunk driving. The less intoxicated a person seems, the more likely they are to engage in dangerous behaviors like driving under the influence. Drinking while smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of driving under the influence and DUI’s. What is even more concerning is the 75% of co-users who also take other illicit substances. In 2020, the University of Michigan revealed that a fifth of young Americans misused prescription drugs while “crossfaded.” In contrast, only 2.5% of young adults who abstained from alcohol and marijuana misused prescription drugs.

Alcohol Abstinence, Weed Use: The Key To Polysubstance Abuse?

Based on recent research, alcohol abstinence does not lead to polysubstance abuse. However, there is a rise in drug experimentation, which may be leading to co-occurring disorders. Young adults are using Marijuana more than ever before. This increase in weed’s popularity may be correlated with the rise of polysubstance abuse. It is still too early to tell whether this correlation is true and more research is needed. In the meantime, Marijuana will only continue to gain popularity as it becomes legalized in many states.

Last Updated:


Suzette Gomez

Photo of Suzette Gomez
  • Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer at Recovery Worldwide LLC. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.

  • More from Suzette Gomez