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Blanket alcohol restrictions in remote regions are being blamed for the increasing rates of cannabis use and a corresponding rise in episodes of psychosis in Cape York, Queensland. Researchers from James Cook University (JCU) surveyed 28% of the population aged between 14 and 50 years in one Cape York community last year. The Cape York cannabis project revealed that two-thirds of men and more than one-third of women were dependent on cannabis and the age of first use of marijuana was sometimes as young as eight years old, with the mean age of first use 16 years.
The project follows research undertaken in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, in 2005-2006 that found similar rates of cannabis use in remote Indigenous communities. Associate Professor Alan Clough from JCU's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said it was now clear the issue was replicated in remote Aboriginal communities across the nation, with figures indicating the rate of cannabis dependence among remote-based Aboriginal people was 12 times higher than that found in the rest of the nation.
Professor Clough says blanket alcohol restrictions have contributed to the rising trend, yet the issue has been largely ignored by policymakers. 'Rates of use were accelerated in the Cape York area from around 2002, 2003, and coincidentally that was when the alcohol management plans were introduced,' he said.
'I think we're starting to compile enough research to tell us that cannabis has slipped under the radar behind the issue of alcohol. We need an immediate and more inclusive and comprehensive policy review on this.'
The initial findings from the research project were funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and will be presented at the National Cannabis Conference in Brisbane this week.
Source: The Australian