Use Patterns

This section provides information about the ways in which Australians use cannabis. It addresses how much and how often Australians use cannabis, the most common types used, and methods and locations of use.

The primary source of data used in this section is the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014). The NDSHS is a triennial general population survey of Australians' awareness, attitudes, and behaviours relating to alcohol and other drug use. It is the best data source available to provide a national population demographic profile of Australians’ cannabis use behaviours. 

Although the NDSHS does collect data regarding cannabis use from 12 and 13 year olds, only data from respondents aged 14 years and over is presented in the NDSHS report. Secondary analyses of the NDSHS conducted by NCETA were therefore also restricted to those aged 14 years or older.

What proportion of Australians has used cannabis?

One third (35%) of Australians (aged 14 years and older) have used cannabis in their lifetime, 10% have used cannabis in the past 12 months, 5% have used in the past month and 4% have used in the past week.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Are men or women in Australia more likely to have used cannabis?

Australian men are more likely than women to have used cannabis in their lifetime, in the past 12 months, in the past month and in the past week.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Are younger or older Australians more likely to have used cannabis?

Australians aged 30-39 years are more likely than other age groups to have used cannabis in their lifetime. Those aged 18-24 years are more likely than other age groups to have used cannabis in the past 12 months, past month, and past week.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

What is the average age at which Australians start to use cannabis?

Among Australians aged 14 years and older who have ever used cannabis, the average age at which they first tried it was 19 years.

Among Australians aged 14-24 years who have ever used cannabis, the average age at which they first tried it was 17 years.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Has the average age at which Australians start to use cannabis changed over time?

Among Australians aged 14 years and older who have ever used cannabis, the average age at which they first tried it has remained stable at 19 years since 1995.

Among Australians aged 14-24 years who have ever used cannabis, the average age at which they first tried it has increased over time: between 1995 and 2010 the average age was 16 years; while in 2013 it significantly increased to 17 years.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

What forms of cannabis do Australians use?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, the majority (72%) used the head of the cannabis plant, followed by cannabis leaf (45%).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as respondents could select more than one form of cannabis.

Do men and women in Australia use different forms of cannabis?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, men were more likely than women to use the head of the cannabis plant, cannabis resin, and cannabis oil.  Women were more likely than men to use cannabis leaf and forms other than head, resin or oil.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as respondents could select more than one form of cannabis.

Do younger and older Australians use different forms of cannabis?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, those aged 14-17 years were more likely to use cannabis leaf whilst other age groups were more likely to use the head of the cannabis plant. 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015)

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

 ** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as respondents were able to select more than one response.

How do Australians use cannabis?

Most Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months smoked it as a joint (84%) or in a bong or pipe (73%). More than half (58%) mixed it with tobacco.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as respondents could select more than one response.

Do men and women in Australia use cannabis differently?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, methods of cannabis use were similar for men and women.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as respondents could select more than one response.

Do younger and older Australians use cannabis differently?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, 18-24 year olds were more likely than other age groups to smoke cannabis as a joint. Those aged 30-39 years were more likely to smoke cannabis in a bong or pipe, eat it (e.g., hash cookies), or mix it with tobacco than other age groups.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as respondents could select more than one response.

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Where do Australians obtain cannabis?

The majority (61%) of Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months usually obtained it from a friend. Dealers were the usual source of cannabis for 24% of cannabis users.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Where do Australians usually use cannabis?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, the majority (87%) used cannabis in a private home, and 42% used at private parties.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Please note: Percentages do not total to 100% as respondents could select more than one location.

How often do Australians use cannabis?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, approximately a third (36%) used once or twice per year.  Approximately one in eight (13%) cannabis users used every day.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Do men or women in Australia use cannabis more often?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, women were more likely than men to use very frequently (every day) and very infrequently (once or twice per year).  Men were more likely than women to use cannabis once per week or more (but not every day).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Do younger or older Australians use cannabis more often?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, those aged 40 years or older were more likely than other age groups to use cannabis every day. Those aged 14-17 years were more likely to use cannabis every few months, and those aged 25-29 and 30-39 years were more likely to use once or twice per year.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding.

How much cannabis do Australians usually use?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, nearly half (48%) usually used one or less joints, bongs, or cones of cannabis on a day they used, and 31% usually used 2-4 joints, bongs or cones. Approximately one in five (22%) usually used 5 or more joints, bongs or cones on a day they used.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. The category “one or less” refers to those who usually consume ¼, ½, ¾ or 1 joint, bong or cone per day of use.

Do men or women in Australia use more cannabis?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, women were more likely than men to use very few (1 or less) or many (11+) joints, bongs, or cones of cannabis on a day they used.  Men were more likely than women to use 2-10 joints, bongs, or cones of cannabis on a day they used.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. The category “one or less” refers to those who usually consume ¼, ½, ¾ or 1 joint, bong or cone per day of use.

Do younger or older Australians use more cannabis?

Among Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months, those aged 25 -29 years were more likely to use one or less joints, bongs or cones of cannabis on a day they used. Australians aged 14-17 years were more likely than other age groups to use two or more joints, bongs or cones of cannabis on a day they used.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. The category “one or less” refers to those who usually consume ¼, ½, ¾ or 1 joint, bong or cone per day of use.

Has the proportion of cannabis users in Australia changed over time?

The proportion of Australians who had used cannabis in their lifetime was lowest (31%) in 1995 and highest (39%) in 1998. In 2013, 35% of Australians had used cannabis at some time in their life.

The proportion of Australians who had used cannabis in the past 12 months was lowest (9%) in 2007 and highest (18%) in 1998. In 2013, 10% of Australians had used cannabis in the past 12 months.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

What proportion of cannabis users use other drugs concurrently?

The majority (91%) of Australians who used cannabis in the past 12 months used at least one other drug at the same time as cannabis. Alcohol (82%) was the drug most often used with cannabis, followed by tobacco (64%).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2015). 

Please note: Percentages do not tally to 100% as survey respondents could select more than one drug type.