The land of surfing, barbies... and dope. Study shows more Australians take marijuana than any other nationality
It's known for its spectacular wildlife, rugged scenery and surfing culture.
But a new study shows why Australians may have developed another national trait - a laid-back, casual lifestyle with plenty of time on the beach and an informal approach to almost anything.
For researchers from the universities of Queensland and New South Wales have found that the continent has the highest per capita consumption of marijuana in the world.
The study, printed in the medical journal The Lancet, discovered that 15 per cent of Australians and neighbouring New Zealanders aged between 15 and 64 used marijuana in 2009 - the latest year for which data is available.
Australia and New Zealand topped the league table despite evidence to suggest that consumption there has been falling for more than a decade. Although not legal in Australia, use of the drug is widely accepted and three states are pushing to have the substance decriminalised.
Researcher Wayne Hall said the geography of the country - which includes large areas of open space difficult to police - and a culture which centres around intoxicants, were likely reasons for Australia topping the table
'Just look at the way we take alcohol as an integral part of everyday life,' he said.
'I think a lot of young people see cannabis in the same way that we see alcohol - as no big deal, as a drug just to use to have a good time.'
On the American continent, seven per cent of the population took the drug, although in the U.S. and Canada that figure rose to nearly 11 per cent.
Europe recorded a figure of 5.3 per cent, although there was a stark difference between consumption in western and central Europe (7.1 per cent) and eastern Europe (2.6 per cent).
Asia - where many countries impose the death penalty for drug trafficking - recorded the lowest marijuana use globally at no more than 2.5 per cent.
The study also discovered that marijuana was the most widely used illegal drug globally, with up to 203million of the world's 7billion population taking the drug.
That compares to up to 56million people who used amphetamines, 14million to 21million using cocaine, and between 12million and 21million using opiates such as heroin.
The research was based on information obtained from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, as well as national surveys.
By Gareth Finighan
Last updated at 7:59 AM on 9th January 2012
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