National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011

5.3 Cannabis

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Table 5.8 shows the proportion of students using cannabis over lifetime, past year, past month and past week by age and gender.

Table 5.8: Cannabis: Percentage of students in each age and gender grouping using cannabis in each recency category, Australia, 2011#

Never used
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
96.1
93.5
88.2
80.6
72.7
66.8
83.8
Females
97.0
94.0
89.6
84.8
77.5
74.5
86.6
Total
96.6
93.8
88.9
82.7
75.1
70.8
85.2
Ever used
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
3.9
6.5
11.8
19.4
27.3
33.2
16.2
Females
3.0
6.0
10.4
15.2
22.5
25.5
13.4
Total
3.4
6.2
11.1
17.3
24.9
29.2
14.8
Past year
2 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
3.3
4.3
9.8
17.0
23.9
29.0
13.8
Females
2.2
4.8
8.9
13.4
20.5
21.5
11.6
Total
2.7
4.6
9.4
15.2
22.2
25.1
12.7
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Past month
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
1.9
2.3
5.7
9.7
13.5
16.9
7.9
Females
1.0
2.7
4.3
6.8
10.2
10.0
5.7
Total
1.4
2.5
5.0
8.3
11.8
13.3
6.8
Past week
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
1.0
1.3
3.7
5.3
6.8
11.0
4.5
Females
0.3
1.6
1.9
3.4
5.1
4.4
2.7
Total
0.6
1.4
2.8
4.3
5.9
7.6
3.6

# Prevalence estimates are within  3.3% of the true population values (see section 2.6). See Appendix 4 for 95% Confidence interval estimates for different proportions for each age and gender group.

Cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance among secondary school students, especially among those in the older age groups. Fifteen per cent of secondary students surveyed had used cannabis at some time in their lives.

In all time periods, the proportion of students using cannabis increased with age.

Use of cannabis in the past month increased significantly with increasing age, from one per cent of students aged 12, to 13% of 17-year-olds.

Around four per cent of students had used cannabis in the previous week, ranging from one per cent of 12-year-olds to eight per cent of 17-year-olds.

In all time periods, more males than females had used cannabis. These differences were statistically significant for 15- and 17-year-olds for lifetime use, use in the past year, past month and past week and for 16-year-olds for lifetime use and use in the past month. Significantly more males than females aged 12 and 14 reported using cannabis in the past week. In addition, when all age groups were combined, more males than females reported using cannabis in their lifetime, the past year, past month and past week.

Type of cannabis used, who it was used with and location of use: Students who had used cannabis in the past year were asked to indicate whether they usually smoked it as a joint, used a bong or ate it. Bongs were the most common method of using cannabis, with 58% of males and 50% of females who had used cannabis in the past year indicating that this was how they usually used it. Joints were used by 46% of females and 37% of males. Most commonly, students reported to use cannabis with others. Eighty-five per cent of males and 89% of females, who had used cannabis in the past year, used it with others. While four per cent of males and one per cent of females indicated that they usually used cannabis by themselves, 12% of males and 10% of females indicated that they used it by themselves or with others about equally often. The most common places for using cannabis were: a friend’s place (36% of males and 45% of females), a party (25% of males and 21% of females), at the student’s own home (12% of males and 11% of females) and at a park (14% of males and 10% of females).

Regularity of use: Among the 13% of students who reported using cannabis in the previous year, 35% of males and 44% of females had used it only once or twice. Thirty-four per cent of males and 23% of females who had used cannabis in the previous year had used it on 10 or more occasions.

Students who had used cannabis on 10 or more occasions in the past year were termed regular users and the proportion of regular users at each age among all students is shown in Figure 5.2.
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Among all students, regular use increased with age from one per cent of males and females aged 13 years, to around 11% of males aged 17 years and six per cent of females aged 16 and 17 years.

Figure 5.2: Percentage of all male and female students in each age group who had used cannabis at least 10 times in the previous year, Australia, 2011 (%)


Column graph showing the percentage of all male and female students in each age group who had used cannabis at least 10 times in the previous year.Description of Figure 5.2
Figure 5.3 shows how regular users and occasional users used cannabis, who they used it with and where it was generally used.

Figure 5.3: How cannabis is used, who cannabis is used with and where cannabis is used, among students who have used cannabis regularly or occasionally in the past year, Australia, 2011# (%)


Column graph showing how cannabis is used, who cannabis is used with and where cannabis is used, among students who have used cannabis regularly or occasionally in the past year.Description of Figure 5.3

# Regular users are students who have used cannabis 10 or more times within the past year. Occasional users are students who have used cannabis less than 10 times within the past year.

Regular users of cannabis were more likely to use a bong than occasional users who were more likely to smoke cannabis as a joint.
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While the majority of both regular and occasional users used cannabis with others, more regular users (25%) than occasional users (5%) indicated that they used cannabis about equally often by themselves and with others (p<0.01).
Occasional users were more likely than regular users to use cannabis at a party (p<0.01), while regular users (20%) were more likely than occasional users (8%) to use cannabis in their own home (p<0.01).

5.3.1 Changes in the prevalence of cannabis use between 2005 and 2011

The proportions of students using cannabis in their lifetime, in the past month or in the past week in 2005, 2008 and 2011 are shown in Table 5.9.

Table 5.9: Percentage of students using cannabis in their lifetime, in the past month and in the past week in 2005, 2008 and 2011, Australia

12 to 15 years

Lifetime
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
14.6**
9.9
10.5
Female
11.0**
8.9
8.7
Total
12.8**
9.4
9.6

16 to 17 years

Lifetime
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
32.9
26.5
29.8
Female
29.3**
22.2
23.8
Total
31.1**
24.3
26.7

Total

Lifetime
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
32.9
26.5
29.8
Female
29.3**
22.2
23.8
Total
31.1**
24.3
26.7
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12 to 15 years

Past month
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
6.6**
4.7
4.9
Female
4.4
3.9
3.8
Total
5.5**
4.3
4.3

16 to 17 years

Past month
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
14.3
13.0
15.0
Female
8.9
9.0
10.1
Total
11.5
10.9
12.5

Total

Past month
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
8.7
6.9
7.9
Female
5.6
5.4
5.7
Total
7.2
6.2
6.8
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12 to 15 years

Past week
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
4.4**
3.2
2.8
Female
2.6
2.0
1.8
Total
3.5**
2.6
2.3

16 to 17 years

Past week
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
8.0
8.2
8.6
Female
3.9
3.6
4.8
Total
5.9
5.9
6.6

Total

Past week
2005
(%)
2008
(%)
2011
(%)
Males
5.4
4.5
4.5
Female
2.9
2.5
2.7
Total
4.2
3.5
3.6

** Significantly different from 2011 at p <0.01.

For all 12- to 15-year-olds, significantly fewer students had used cannabis in each of the time periods in 2011 than in 2005. However there was no difference in the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds using cannabis in all recency periods between 2011 and 2008.

Older students in 2011 were significantly less likely to have used cannabis in their lifetime than in 2005 but there was no difference in the proportions found in 2008 and 2011. There was no difference in the proportion of older students in 2011, 2008 and 2005 using cannabis in the past month or in the past week.

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