Report finds Covid-related stress cranks up cannabis use

Cannabis plants seized at a Dunlop growhouse. Picture: ACT Policing
Cannabis plants seized at a Dunlop growhouse. Picture: ACT Policing

Cannabis users ramped up consumption to as much as 25 days a month during periods of stress from changes to their employment, financial or living situations, exacerbated by the national pandemic and resulting Covid lockdowns.

A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology has provided some first-hand insights into why people use cannabis and why some increased their usage during the pandemic.

The research examined patterns of cannabis use between April-May 2020 when the country was in lockdown, and compared them with a similar assessment in July-August 2017 when the concept of a worldwide Covid pandemic was barely conceivable.

The researchers collected data from police detainees. Most were men, non-indigenous and had a median age of 34 years.

AIC deputy director Rick Brown said the findings "help us to develop a fuller picture of cannabis use and the impacts on its users".

Researchers found that people who admitted to using cannabis within the past month reported using the drug an average of 25 days per month, significantly more often than in 2020.

The data was collated across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide and in every instance, the median usage days increased significantly. In Perth, the median went from 15 days of cannabis use per month to 28.

However, comparing pre-pandemic to current rates, the data revealed users didn't markedly increase the quantities consumed in each session.

The stress of negative emotions associated with changes to employment, financial or living situations wrought by the pandemic led, as expected, to a marked increased in consumption and two-fifths of April-May cannabis users reported purchasing a greater quantity of cannabis than usual to avoid potential shortages.

But the study also revealed that those claiming cannabis as a "gateway" to harder drugs would not have their position supported because even in the toughest part of the pandemic lockdown, only 17 per cent of cannabis users reported using other drugs as a substitute.

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And availability never seems to be an issue with suppliers and dealers seemingly able to pivot and adapt even when faced with difficult delivery circumstances.

Asked to rate availability on a scale from one (extremely hard to get) to 10 (overabundant), the detainees provided a median rating of nine during the height of the national lockdown in 2020.

"Four out of five cannabis users also reported no change in the price of cannabis, and three out of five cannabis users reported no change in the number of dealers selling cannabis," the report said.

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This story Report finds Covid-related stress cranks up cannabis use first appeared on The Canberra Times.