Marijuana replaces banned alcohol in remote aboriginal communities

A new study on drug use in Australian Aboriginal communities had found that restrictions on alcohol and petrol have led to an increased use of marijuana.

The 5-year study period involved the researchers in observation, and structured and unstructured interviews with young aboriginal people and adult community members.

Researchers Dr. Kate Senior and Dr. Richard Chenhall from the Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina, in the Northern Territory, Australia, say banning alcohol in indigenous communities, while it is successful in reducing harm caused by alcohol abuse, must be done in full consultation with the communities.

The study highlights the importance of looking at indigenous substance misuse in the total context of indigenous poverty, poor health and lack of opportunities.

To put the problem into perspective, Australian national statistics show that marijuana use is common in Australia with at least 11% of the urban non-indigenous population using the drug - when it comes to the indigenous population this number doubles to 22%.

It is also suspected that the rates of marijuana use may be much higher in remote indigenous communities throughout the Northern Territory.

The study shows that prohibiting alcohol in remote Aboriginal communities only serves to create a new set of problems if efforts are not made to address the underlying social issues.

The researchers say the existing marijuana market has grown and its use has extended beyond youths to now include adults.

Dr. Senior and Dr. Chenhall say efforts to control illicit substances, such as alcohol, should address the dynamics of alcohol and drug use in totality, as well as interventions that are able to contend with the underlying social determinants of Indigenous health.

The study entitled "Lukumbat Marawana: A Changing Pattern of Drug Use by Youth in a Remote Aboriginal Community" is published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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