The United States of America might be riding high on its happiness levels, but according to a new research, the country has the highest level of illegal cocaine and cannabis use.
A survey of 17 countries has found that despite its punitive drug policies the United States has the highest levels of illegal cocaine and cannabis use.
The study, by Louisa Degenhardt from University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and colleagues, is based on the World Health Organization's Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) and is published in this week's PLoS Medicine.
The scientists found that 16.2 percent of people in the United States had used cocaine in their lifetime, a level much higher than any other country surveyed (the second highest level of cocaine use was in New Zealand, where 4.3 percent of people reported having used cocaine). Cannabis use was highest in the US (42.4 percent), followed by New Zealand (41.9 percent).
In the Americas, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, alcohol had been used by the vast majority of survey participants, compared to smaller proportions in the Middle East, Africa, and China.
The survey found differences in both legal and illegal drug use among different socioeconomic groups.
For instance, males were more likely than females to have used all drug types; younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used all drugs examined; and higher income was related to drug use of all kinds.
Drug use "does not appear to be simply related to drug policy," say the authors, "since countries with more stringent policies towards illegal drug use did not have lower levels of such drug use than countries with more liberal policies."
Data on drug use were available from 54,068 survey participants in 17 countries. The 17 countries were determined by the availability of research collaborators and on funding for the survey.
Trained lay interviewers carried out face-to-face interviews using a standardized, structured diagnostic interview for psychiatric conditions and drug use. Participants were asked if they had ever used alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or cocaine.