Gays or bisexuals show higher rates of drug use than heterosexuals: AIHW

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Cannabis Australia
Droplets of oil form on the surface of a Cannabis plant in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 60 km (40 miles) from Venice, September 22, 2014. Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

According to new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, gay or bisexual people show higher rates of drug use compared to heterosexuals. The AIHW collected data about who uses what drugs and how often.

Based on figures from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016, the AIHW finds that people who identify as homosexual or bisexual are six times more likely to use ecstasy or meth/amphetamine than heterosexuals. These drugs include ice and speed.

AIHW spokesman Matthew James said that homosexual and bisexuals were also about four times as likely to use cocaine as heterosexual people. They are three times more likely to use cannabis as well.

Mental illnesses

The report shows that mental illnesses were becoming more prevalent among illicit drug users. Of those who had used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months, around 27 percent had been diagnosed with, or treated for, mental illness. The recent figure is comparable from 21 percent in 2013.

Rates of mental illness were specifically high for ecstasy and meth/amphetamine users. "In 2016, 42 per cent of meth/amphetamine users had a mental illness, up from 29 per cent in 2013, while the rate of mental illness among ecstasy users also rose from 18 per cent to 27 percent," James said, according to Sydney Morning Herald. He added that drug use is a complex issue, and as to what degree drug use causes mental health problems and to what degree mental health issues give rise to drug use are difficult to determine.

The patterns in drug consumption and employment status are also indicated in the report. "People who were unemployed were about three times as likely to have recently used meth/amphetamines as employed people, and about two times as likely to use cannabis or smoke tobacco daily," James said.

People with jobs, on the other hand, were more likely to use cocaine than those who do not have jobs. The report also looked into tobacco and alcohol use, finding lower levels of some risky behaviours like drink-driving and a decline in smoking rates among people in lower socioeconomic areas.

Cannabis (10.4 percent), cocaine (2.5 percent), ecstasy (2.2 percent) and meth/amphetamines (1.4 percent) were the most commonly used illegal drugs, and were used at least once in the previous 12 months, according to the report. Tobacco leads to premature death than any other drug, with the AIHW estimating there were 18,762 tobacco-related deaths in 2011.

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