The use of cannabis is costing Australia $4.5 billion a year, according to a new report released today.
Involving expertise from around Australia the Quantifying the Social Costs of Cannabis Use to Australia reportwas published by the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University.
The report is the first national estimate of the social and economic costs of cannabis use in 13 years, which showed that, in the 2015-2016, cannabis use was responsible for:
- $4.4 billion in direct tangible costs, including crime and criminal justice, hospital and other healthcare costs, reduced productivity and worker absence, and road traffic accidents; and
- A further $100 million in intangible costs due to the premature death of 23 people, mostly through cannabis-related road traffic accidents, which resulted in more than 850 years of life lost.
The report found crime, health care, and workplace costs accounted for more than three quarters of the estimate.
The use of cannabis, especially in the first three hours after consumption, has been identified as increasing the likelihood of being an 'at-fault' driver in a road accident.
People who live with someone who has cannabis dependence, in particular partners and children, could experience reduced quality of life.
There are about 45,000 children and 27,000 partners who live in a household with a person dependent on cannabis.
NDRI's professor Steve Allsop said more than 2 million Australians had used cannabis in the 12 month period investigated, with about 150,000 people meeting the criteria for dependence on the drug.
"When there are adverse outcomes of cannabis use this can require the use of health services or result in contact with the criminal justice system," he said.
"Cannabis-related problems can increase demand across the healthcare system, from community mental health programs to hospital inpatient treatment, costing more than $700 million.
"The estimated cost of crime resulting from cannabis use amounts to $2.4 billion, accounting for more than half the total, with the majority due to imprisonment and policing costs."
National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction professor Ann Roche said that worker absence and reduced productivity due to cannabis use was estimated at $560 million.
"There are likely to be further costs in reduced productivity, when people go to work affected by cannabis, but quantifying this reduced performance needs further research," she said.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre professor Louisa Degenhardt added the link between cannabis use and schizophrenia remained controversial and subject to debate.
"Nonetheless, those who are admitted with psychosis where cannabis is mentioned comprise the most costly cannabis-related hospital admissions," she said.