6 - Attitudes to cannabis
gave multiple reasons for using cannabis, so quantitative
data is of limited value. Respondents chose their own
words to describe why they used cannabis, health problems
and benefits, and best and worst experiences; we have
summarised them and given some quotes in the tables. Unsurprisingly,
people say they use cannabis because they enjoy it. Relaxation,
enlightenment and socialising were also frequently mentioned
reasons for using it. The users feel that it does them
more good than harm. They would prefer that the law was
more liberal, but a majority don"t think they would
use more if it was.
the highest average positive subjective rating of all
the drugs, with a positive/negative ratio of 39.4:1 (Tables
3.1-3.4) and was the second most commonly cited cause
of a "Best drug experience" either alone or in combination
with other drugs. It was the fourth most frequent cause
of a "Worst drug experience", chosen 83 times, but 16
of those bad experiences were running out of drugs, and
three were being busted. 15% of our sample had never tried
any illegal drug except cannabis.
Only 3 people
believed there should be no change in drugs laws. 43%
of users believed that cannabis should be legalised, 34%
decriminalised and 21.5% licensed (these options are not
exclusive of one another and multiple answers were common).
24% thought all drugs should be legalised (Tables 6.2-6.3).
71% believed that liberalising the law on cannabis would
not alter their own consumption patterns.
61% of users
felt that cannabis had been of benefit to their physical
or mental health, the most common reasons given being
relaxation or stress relief, increased social tolerance,
and pain relief. These also showed up frequently as "Best
drug experience". 17% felt it had caused them physical
or mental problems at some time, commonly short term memory
loss, paranoia, or lung complaints. Some of these problems
were also listed as "Worst drug experience".
health problems from cannabis showed significantly higher
frequencies of use of all drugs (aggregate frequency),
alcohol, cannabis, mushrooms, tranquillisers, and number
of plants grown. Mean incomes of this group were significantly
lower. No other indices of drug use or spending showed
any significant differences between those who had or had
not experienced health problems from cannabis. Those people
who reported health benefits were also significantly heavier
users of cannabis and most other drugs, although their
alcohol and tranquilliser use was lower.
A large majority
of those reporting health problems with cannabis also
reported health benefits, in particular those who did
not specify what problem or benefit.
7 - Variations by Age and Sex
Just over two
thirds (68%) of respondents were male, and 32% female.
The youngest was 15, the oldest 68 years old. The mean
age was 25 years and two months, with no significant age
difference between the sexes. The sample under-represents
the under-20's compared with other drugs studies. The
mode, or most common age, was 21. No age was given by
71 respondents, 67 gave no sex.
and Age Groups
prevalence and age of initiation
For all drugs,
the lowest number who had ever used them was in the under
20 age group, presumably because of the lower number of
that age group, and perhaps because older respondents
have had more opportunities to try different drugs. However,
younger respondents had first tried all drugs earlier
than their elders. The initiation age difference was largest
for ecstasy and crack, which were not widely available
until the late 1980"s. Respondents under 20 had,
on average, tried cannabis around 3 years earlier in their
lives than the over thirties.
drugs most likely to ever have been used by the under-20s,
apart from cannabis, were LSD, amphetamines, and mushrooms.
Alcohol and tobacco were actually the second and third
most commonly tried drugs, and a high proportion of that
usage will have been illegal because of age limits.
of use and Spending
The most frequent
users of most drugs were in their twenties, with the exceptions
of mushrooms (over 30s), other psychedelics (over 25s),
cocaine, heroin, barbiturates and tranquillisers (all
over 30s). There were notable age differences in spending
on drugs, with teenagers spending less than adults on
legal drugs and cannabis, and more on LSD, and young adults
(20-24) spending nearly twice as much on ecstasy as other
groups. The higher levels of drug use among younger, less
experienced users, is similar to the findings of the 1984
survey. Drug users would appear to try a range of substances
early in their drug-using careers, but revert to mainly
cannabis use and possibly occasional use of other drugs
as they grow older.
age-related differences in the subjective ratings given
to various drugs. Attitudes to tobacco, alcohol, cannabis,
and solvents were more negative (or less positive) the
older the age group, and attitudes to tea & coffee
became more positive. For the other drugs, attitudes were
most positive among respondents in their twenties. Respondents
under 20 would typically give the most negative responses
to most drugs, but gave the most positive responses to
LSD and cannabis. This may relate to the numbers who had
ever used particular drugs, as low ratings generally correlate
with low usage.
Women had first
tried most drugs later than men, other than alcohol, LSD
and amphetamine in the youngest age group. The difference
between sexes in age of first use tended to be greater
between older respondents (Tables 7.1 & 7.2).
any age group were less likely to have ever used most
drugs, likely to use drugs less often, and spent less
per month on average, than males. The exceptions were
legal drugs, cannabis and ecstasy. The heaviest tobacco
smokers and tranquilliser users were women over 30. Women
under 20 used alcohol and ecstasy more often than young
men. Women between 20-30 were slightly more likely to
have ever used alcohol or cannabis than men, but used
them less frequently. Ecstasy was more likely to have
ever been tried, and used more often, by under-20's females
than males, and over 30's males than females.
Crime Survey found that more men than women had ever used
any drug, for all age groups, with the difference narrower
among younger people. The levels of lifetime use of all
drugs reported here were higher than in the BCS, and higher
than in the London Dance Safety Campaign survey except
for Ecstasy and cocaine. They were lower than in the Release
Drugs & Dance survey for every drug listed in both,
except cannabis and mushrooms, for every age group and
both sexes. In particular, the proportion of users in
our study (mainly from a pop festival), ever having used
ecstasy (52%) was much lower than in the clubs (63%-85%).
The Release study found no significant differences between
the sexes" levels of lifetime use of any drug except
LSD, Ketamine, and crack. Comparisons with the present
authors" 1984 survey show a marked rise in ecstasy
(included as 'other' in 1984), slightly increased prevalence
of LSD and amphetamine, but reduced prevalence of cocaine
and heroin (Tables 7.3- 7.5). In other respects the results
of this survey are strikingly similar to those reported