This Bulletin reviews recent activity by the National Cannibis Prevention and Information Centre to address cannabis use among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
While data are scarce, it appears that drug use among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population generally begins at a much younger age than the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population; with some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as young as 10 and 11 years old identified as commonly smoking cannabis. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey indicated that 26.9 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents reported having used cannabis, with 18.5 per cent reporting recent use, compared with 23.8 per cent of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents reporting use and 10 per cent recent use. In addition, studies indicate that for the 14–19 year age group the use of cannabis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is double the general Australian population. Cessation of cannabis use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (men in particular) in remote communities, has also been found to occur much later than among the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
Although the latest data suggests a slight increase in use, over the past decade there has been a reduction in cannabis use across Australia. In contrast, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers across the country are becoming increasingly concerned about the recent rapid escalation and pervasiveness of cannabis use within their respective communities.
They are particularly concerned about the cannabis use of their young people. Current prevention activities do not appear to be having the desired impact on young people, and young males generally are not known as regular health information and intervention seekers.
Authored by John Howard, Dion Alperstein, Sonia Cox, Heath Zorz and Owen Smith.