Cannabis use in Cape York Indigenous communities: high prevalence, mental health impacts and the desire to quit

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2012 Jun;31(4):580-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2011.00405.x. Epub 2011 Dec 20.


Introduction and aims: Anecdotal reports suggest that high rates of cannabis use and dependence are significant issues in Indigenous communities in north Queensland; however, there is little scientific evidence to support or refute this. The Cape York Cannabis Project seeks to investigate cannabis use rates, cannabis dependence and mental health impacts for the first time in three Cape York Indigenous communities.

Design and methods: The current study reports preliminary findings, resulting from interviews with 133 Indigenous participants aged 14-47 years from one Cape York community. Quantitative data were gathered on rates of cannabis use, cannabis dependence as measured by a score of ≥ 3 the Severity of Dependence Scale. Qualitative self-report data were gathered concerning mental health impacts of cannabis and reasons for quitting.

Results and conclusions: Very high rates of cannabis use were identified, with 66.2% of males and 30.5% of females interviewed being current users. An additional 12.2% of males and 30.5% of females were former users, and 21.6% of males and 39% of females had never used cannabis. High rates of cannabis dependence were also observed. Of those current users who used cannabis at least weekly, 67.7% reported cannabis dependence. A range of mental health impacts due to cannabis were reported. In total, 76.1% of current users were considering quitting or cutting down. Rates of use and dependence were much higher than national rates, and indicate significant mental health harms due to cannabis. Further investigation of mental health impacts of cannabis is required, as is intervention to reduce these impacts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / ethnology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Marijuana Smoking / ethnology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / psychology*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Queensland / epidemiology