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January 7, 2012

Interesting global drug use data via new study in The Lancet

This New York Times article, which is headlined "Marijuana Use Most Rampant in Australia, Study Finds," reports on lots of interesting global illegal drug use data:

A study published Friday in a British medical journal may have finally uncovered the secret behind Australia’s laid-back lifestyle, and it turns out to be more than just sun and surf: The denizens Down Under, it turns out, consume more marijuana than any other people on the planet.

The study, an analysis of global trends in illegal drugs and their effect on public health published in The Lancet, a prestigious journal, found that Australia and neighboring New Zealand topped the lists globally for consumption of both marijuana and amphetamines, a category of drugs whose use the study found to be growing rapidly around the world.

The study’s co-authors, Professors Louisa Degenhardt of the University of New South Wales and Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland, reported that as much as 15 percent of the populations of Australia and New Zealand between the ages of 15 and 64 had used some form of marijuana in 2009, the latest year for which data were available.

The Americas, by comparison, clocked in at 7 percent, although North America batted above the neighborhood average with nearly 11 percent of its population partaking. Asia demonstrated the lowest global marijuana use patterns at no more than 2.5 percent, the study said, although difficulties in obtaining accurate data in less developed countries were cited as one possible reason for the low figures....

Stepping back for a global perspective, the study found that marijuana was the world’s most widely consumed illicit drug, with anywhere from 125 million to 203 million people partaking annually. Use of the drug far outstrips that of other illicit drugs globally, with 14 million to 56 million people estimated to use amphetamines, 14 million to 21 million estimated to use cocaine and 12 million to 21 million estimated to use opiates like heroin.

Still, despite marijuana’s significantly outpacing other illicit drugs in terms of the volume of use, the study found that it was the least likely of all illicit drugs to cause death. Additionally, barely 1 percent of deaths in Australia annually can be attributed to illegal drugs, the report said, compared with almost 12 percent from tobacco use.

This global study is actually part of a series of articles in The Lancet available at this link and set up with this executive summary:

A three-part Series assesses the global public-health toll and policy implications of drug addiction. The first paper summarises data for the prevalence and consequences of problem use of amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, and opioids.  In high-income countries, illicit drug use contributes less to the burden of disease than tobacco, but a substantial proportion of that burden is due to alcohol.  Intelligent policy responses to drug problems need better prevalence data for different types of illicit drug use and the harms that their use causes globally.  This need is especially urgent in high-income countries with substantial rates of illicit drug use and in low-income and middle-income countries close to illicit drug production areas.  The second paper reviews existing drug policies and highlights the need for greater reliance on scientific evidence-based policy making.  The final paper examines the value of international drug conventions in protecting public health.

January 7, 2012 at 02:15 PM | Permalink


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I wish the Lancet or others would compare death rates from illegal drugs to death rates from comparably consumed prescription drugs. This is something they steadfastly refuse to do. Some prescription drugs have much higher rates of fatality than most categories of illegal drugs.

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Jan 7, 2012 3:55:53 PM

"Still, despite marijuana’s significantly outpacing other illicit drugs in terms of the volume of use, the study found that it was the least likely of all illicit drugs to cause death."

Has marijuana ever been proven to have caused a death? And I don't mean where someone had an accident and it's assumed marijuana was the cause simply because the person tested positive for it. I mean a single case in which marijuana is the verified, conclusively established cause of a death.

Posted by: C.A.J. | Jan 7, 2012 5:14:07 PM

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Posted by: Drug Abuse Treatment | Jan 19, 2012 2:13:37 AM

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