What? Just because 10-15% of the population used marijuana that can’t mean we are already a nation of potheads. Never mind if we are major users compared to Asia where only 1.2-2.5% do.
Healthy image up in smoke as nation lives the high life
From the Sydney Morning Hearld
By Amy Corderoy
6 January 2012
AUSTRALIA and New Zealand have a proud history of co-operation, but now it seems the nations have achieved a more dubious honour: the world’s biggest pot-heads.
Together the countries have higher levels of marijuana and amphetamine use than any other region in the world, according to the findings from a series of papers to be published today in the medical journal The Lancet examining global drug use and law enforcement.
In 2009 in Oceania, for which only data from Australia and New Zealand was available, 10 to 15 per cent of people had used marijuana in the past year, compared to 1.2 to 2.5 per cent in Asia, the region with the lowest use. Between 2 and 2.8 per cent used amphetamines such as speed, compared with 0.2 to 1.4 per cent in Asia.
The study leader, Louisa Degenhardt, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and the University of NSW, said Australia and New Zealand’s similarity in drug- use patterns pushed Oceania so high.
“There are some countries with similar use to Australia but combined with other countries in their region their average decreases,” she said.
The Americas averaged about 7 per cent, with North America on 10 per cent.
Professor Degenhardt said supply issues could effect which drugs were used in different countries, along with cultural attitudes. “The more negative the attitude in general the lower the level of use tends to be.”
But while factors such as the numbers of people using drugs at younger ages were linked to harm, more use had not been shown to directly impact wellbeing.
Professor Degenhardt said getting accurate information could be difficult in some countries where people feared coming forward. For example, a drug survey in Burma was conducted by police.
Robin Room, the director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, said current international drug treaties constrained Australia from experimenting with the regulation of drugs or from adapting laws to the differing harms caused by individual drugs.
His paper in The Lancet series argues in order to adapt such policies, countries would have to withdraw from international treaties.
“At the moment we can have that political discussion but we can’t make the political changes,” Professor Room told a briefing organised by the Australian Science Media Centre.