One of the better publications I receive on licit and illicit drug consumption in Australia is Of Substance.
This is published by the Australian National Council on Drugs and is available in printed version or online free of charge (at www.ofsubstance.org.au) coutesy of the Department of Health and Aging. The April 2007 issue has just come out. It contains interesting articles. I’ll pick 3 examples.
An excellent article by Don Weatherburn on alcohol and indigenous Australians. The general argument supports Noel Pearson’s view that restricting the availability of alcohol and other drugs is better than spending a lot on treatment of abuse problems. Drug and alcohol problems, rather than social disadvantage, drive a great deal of indigenous problems with the criminal justice system. Education and employment are important but so too are the direct effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
The National Drug Research Group also points out that alcohol kills an indigenous Australian every 38 hours – mostly due to cirrhosis or suicide. The average age of their death is 35.
I also liked the review of the Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey for which I cannot find a weblink. More school kids aged 12-17 are alcohol abstinent since 1999 (29% in 2005 compared to 35% then) but the long-term trend in ‘problem drinking’ (more than 7 drinks in the past week in a single session for males) is discouraging (6% in 1984, 9% in 2005). The really good news is the massive decline in smoking. Current smokers were 19% of the total in 1999 and only 9% in 2005 while committed (addicted) smokers fell from 9% to 6% today. The fraction that used cannabis in the month before the survey halved over this same period from 14% to 7%. There are now more cannabis than tobacco users in our high schools.