Australia up in smoke

Tuesday, 30 November, 2004

Australians use more cannabis than people in the United States, Britain and the Netherlands. One in five young adults uses cannabis weekly and one in 10 users becomes dependent on the drug, Australian drug researchers have found.

The former head of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Dr Wayne Hall, said cannabis use had steadily increased since the 1970s. "We are probably a bit higher than the UK and the US," he said. "We are a lot higher than the Netherlands, for example, which is a favourite comparison given their policies on cannabis." Studies show 60% of Australian adults have tried cannabis and about 2% are considered dependent upon it, Dr Hall said.

He blamed a lack of activities for young people as a factor in increasing cannabis use. "I think it is to do with bored youth culture, which has been fairly favourable towards cannabis and the increased availability of it," he said.

There was consensus among the experts that occasional users who did not have a predisposition towards mental illness were unlikely to suffer long-term effects. But regular, heavy use could affect people's jobs and relationships.

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