Young people and illicit drug use in Australia

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Abstract
Objective: To review what is known about young people’s drug use in Australia and to evaluate whether illicit drug use has become normalised among Australian youth. Method: Survey data and social research findings on young people’s illicit drug use are reviewed and evaluated against the criteria of the normalisation thesis. The utility of the normalisation thesis is assessed in the Australian context. Results: National surveys suggest that around a third of Australian young people have tried any illicit substance. The most commonly tried and regularly used illicit substance is cannabis, although its use may be declining. The regular use of drugs other than cannabis is infrequent, although increasing numbers of young people in their twenties appear to be trying ‘designer’ or ‘party’ drugs such as ecstasy. Studies of dance music and alternative music subcultures suggest that illicit drug use within these scenes is much more common than among young people in general. Within these contexts illicit drug use could be regarded as normalised. Conclusion: Illicit drug use appears to be normalised among specific groups of young Australians and in particular contexts, not throughout the wider population. The normalisation thesis may be useful when thinking about interventions with young people for whom drug use is ‘normal’ in that it acknowledges the strategies they develop to manage their drug use. However, the notion of ‘sensible and strategic use’ should be employed carefully to avoid the further stigmatisation of injecting drug users. Keywords: Young people, illicit drug use, normalisation, Australia, survey data, social research
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Holt, Martin
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Publication Year
2005
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Working Paper
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