Pot Use Highest In Australia, New Zealand
January 8, 2012

Pot Use Highest In Australia, New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rate of marijuana and amphetamine use in the world, according to a new study published last week in the medical journal The Lancet.

According to Matt Seigel of the New York Times, the study, which was co-authored by University of New South Wales professor Louisa Degenhardt and University of Queensland professor Wayne Hall, claims that nearly 15% of the combined 15- to 64-year-old population had used some form of marijuana in 2009.

Those figures, Phobe Wearne of The Western Australia reported Friday, also mean that residents of the Oceania region can "claim the dubious distinction of being some of the world's biggest" users of the illicit drug. Only data from Australia and New Zealand was available.

In comparison, 7% of the population of North America said that they had used pot, and Asia boasted the lowest cannabis use rate with a maximum of 2.5% in 2009 -- the most recent year for which such data was available, Seigel said.

Furthermore, the study found that as much as 3% of the Australian population had used amphetamines, including speed. Estimates for Asian amphetamine use range from just 0.2% to 1.4%, the New York Times notes.

The study, which is part of a series that The Lancet is doing on addiction, also disclosed that an estimated 200 million people or more worldwide use illegal drugs on an annual basis, Jeannine Stein of the Los Angeles Times' Booster Shots blog said.

She reports that the study claims that between 125 million and 203 million people in the world use marijuana, between 12 million and 21 million use opioids, and between 14 million and 21 million use cocaine. Furthermore, between 15 million and 39 million users are considered to have a drug problem, and as many as one out of 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64 use an illegal drug each year.

Even though marijuana was the most widely used drug, it was also the least likely to result in death, the New York Times pointed out.

"Cannabis use is associated with dependence and mental disorders, including psychoses, but does not seem to substantially increase mortality," the researchers said in their report, according to AFP.

"Illicit opioid use is a major cause of mortality from fatal overdose and dependence," they added, also noting that those who injected themselves with drugs faced other health risks, including the possibility of contracting HIV or hepatitis by sharing needles.

The research, which was based on information obtained from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as national surveys and other peer-reviewed studies, did not analyze the prevalence of ecstacy, LSD, or anabolic steroid use, nor did it include prescription drug misuse, the French news agency reported. As such, use of those drugs has not been factored into the estimated global statistics presented in the study.


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