Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Of Substance

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.

2 comments:

Francis Xavier Holden said...

The figures would suggest that banning cigarettes in indigenous communities might be an even cheaper and give a bigger health gain. But bit difficult.

I can't remember the figures but there are a few bits of research that show the level of alcohol abstinent persons in indigenous australians is significantly higher than the rest of the population.


The fraction that used cannabis in the month before the survey halved over this same period from 14% to 7%.

The survey in your previous post said that 67% of teenagers had tried cannabis. But only 7% in the last month.

I'm not suggesting these findings are contradictory but that the picture is complex and needs a look at lots of information from lots of sources and we need to understand how these surveys are designed.

F'rinstance the other study suggested that around 3% of teeneagers are heavy users ( daily) - this study suiggests that only 7% have tried in the last month. That must include the 3% heavy users - so outside heavy users bugger all have tried cannabis in the last month ?!?!???

There are now more cannabis than tobacco users in our high schools.

The pattern of cigarette usage is different, and, I'd suggest, more harmful, than the pattern of cannabis use.

hc said...

My guess is that cutting out smoking would produce bigger long-term health gains. As I mentioned in an earlier post indigenous Australians are poorly informed about tobacco which suggests a strategy.

On alcohol - that result uis widely known and I have posted it. Indigenous Australians are often abstinent but when they drink they drink a lot.