Kiwis second highest drug users – study

Christchurch Press 02 July 2008

New Zealand ranks second only to the United States in a scientific survey of illegal cocaine and cannabis use in 17 countries. The study uses data from the countries participating in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) World Mental Health Survey Initiative. It found that 16.2 per cent of people in the United States reported using cocaine in their lifetime, the second highest level of cocaine use was in New Zealand, where 4.3 per cent of people reported having used the drug. Cannabis use was highest in the US (42.4 per cent), followed by New Zealand (41.9 per cent).

The research was based on interviews with 85,052 participants in 17 countries. It was published today in the journal of the Public Library of Science.

…Differences in illegal drug use were more marked among young adults: by the age of age 15, drug users in New Zealand (27 per cent) and the USA (20 per cent) had the highest levels of cannabis use, with almost no use in Asia, Middle East, or Africa. Only 7 per cent of teens in the Netherlands had used cannabis by the age of 15. But the majority of young adults in New Zealand (62 per cent) and the USA (54 per cent) had used it by age 21, compared to 35 per cent of those in the Netherlands.

Drug use “does not appear to be simply related to drug policy,” the authors said. Countries with stringent policies towards illegal drug use often had higher levels of such drug use than countries with more liberal policies. In the Netherlands – which has more liberal policies than the USA – 1.9 per cent of people reported cocaine use and 19.8 per cent reported cannabis use.

Males were more likely than females and younger adults were more likely than older to have used all the drugs examined.
Higher income was related to drug use of all kinds.
Marital status was found to be related to tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use, but not alcohol use. People who were never married or those previously married had higher odds of lifetime cocaine and cannabis use than the currently married, but tobacco use was more likely in people who have been previously married and less likely among the never married.
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