New U.N. Report Finds Australia Has Most Recreational Drug Users In The World

By McCarton Ackerman 07/08/14

The report finds that Australians heavily use everything from marijuana and ecstasy to cocaine and crystal meth.

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When it comes to recreational drug use, nobody can hold a candle to the Australians.

This year’s United Nations World Drug Report confirmed that the continent has the highest proportion of recreational drug users in the world, leading the globe in ecstasy use while coming in third overall for meth and fourth for cocaine. Australia also ranks second in use of “black market opioids” such as codeine and morphine, with more than three percent of people between ages 15-65 considered regular users. Perhaps surprisingly, a majority of these opioid users are women.

More than 1.9 million people on the continent also reportedly used marijuana in 2009, roughly 12 months before the UN report figures were collected. The increase in drug use also correlates with an increase in overdose deaths in Australia, with more than three people dying each day as a result.

“There is certainly greater demand for drugs and that is likely because of economic and social conditions,” said Dr. Alex Wodak, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president. “People on one hand have more money to spend and on the other, there are more people who are at risk…those that are at risk are getting worse because of high unemployment, poor job prospects, lack of optimism.”

Several medical groups and anti-drug campaigns have also called for a new approach to curbing drug use in Australia. Sam Biondo, chief executive of the Victoria Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) in Melbourne, said that doctors too freely prescribe opioid medications when addressing pain management for patients. He has called for real-time prescription drug monitoring programs to help track any potential signs of addiction.

“[They are] vital, not only in managing the client outcomes, but [also in] ensuring that we’re reducing the number of deaths that are occurring,” he noted. “[Doctors] need to work in a holistic way to deal with the complexities that arise out of people’s pain issues.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.