9% of Australians have smoked cannabis in the past year
63% of teenage daily users cannot control their use

The  National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has published a research report The epidemiology of cannabis use and cannabis-related harm in Australia 1993–2007ad.

This report has found that there has been a dramatic increase in people seeking medical treatment resulting from problems caused by smoking cannabis, many of these cases leading to hospitalisation.

Amanda Roxburgh, senior researcher at the university’s National Drug and Alcohol Centre, says  "what we think that reflects is a longer-term use over a long period of time."

Ms Roxburgh says older users are twice as likely to report daily use compared to teenagers, adding that the rate of harmful use among younger people is very worrying.

The researchers reported that “There is now good evidence that daily or near-daily use by adolescents and young adults can lead to the development of cannabis dependence”.

The Report also confirmed that regular use of this illicit drug was associated with an increased risk of psychosis and depression and poorer educational and occupational outcomes among those smoking before the age of 16 years.

The fact that young people do not seek medical treatment as frequently is more likely credited to the fact that teenagers who smoke daily are more likely to experience acute short-term cannabis-related harms (such as intoxication and drug-induced psychosis) rather than longer-term harms (such as dependence) requiring hospitalization.

The report concluded that “Those young Australian adults who use cannabis daily, however, appear to be more likely to use larger amounts of cannabis on each occasion. It is also of concern that 63% of young daily users reported difficulties controlling their use”.

Report Recommendations:

  • Develop public health messages about the risks of cannabis use
  • Develop strategies to reduce the quantity and frequency of cannabis use among people who are already experiencing cannabis-related problems
  • Develop strategies that encourage users to seek help more quickly, and
  • Develop more effective ways to help young people who develop cannabis-related problems to desist from using.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.

National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre