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Drug Abuse

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What is clear, however, is that young people do use illicit drugs. They are perhaps doing so in greater numbers than ever before. The deliberate, strategic and 'sensible' use of certain illicit substances by young people, particularly cannabis, ecstasy and other stimulants, is argued to reflect the wider availability and acceptability of these drugs to young people, and the growth of leisure subcultures (particularly those centred on clubbing and dance music) in which drugs may be chosen to provide pleasurable 'mind-altering' experiences and to signal subcultural identification and belonging. In order to develop effective responses in the areas of service delivery, education, law

enforcement and social policy, it is important that we have a sound understanding of drug use

patterns and trends among Australian youth. At present, there are a number of behavioural surveys that capture different aspects of youth drug use at a national level, although all of these surveillance mechanisms systematically exclude some young people. Most of the surveys target specific groups of drug users, such as injecting drug users, rather than young people in general. Only two national surveys have attempted to provide overall rates of illicit drug use among representative samples of young Australians, the Australian Secondary Students Survey of over-the-counter and illicit drugs (ASSS) and the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). Both surveys

found that between a quarter and two-fifths of Australian youth had tried or used any illicit substance. In these and other surveys, cannabis is reported as the most commonly used illicit substance, with only small proportions of young Australians reporting the use of other illicit substances, such as amphetamines, ecstasy or opiates.



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