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Natural Awakenings

Survey Says: U.S. Leads World in Substance Abuse

The U.S. leads the world in marijuana and cocaine experimentation, as well as in lifetime tobacco use, according to a recent survey by the World Health Organization. Some 42 percent of U.S. respondents said they used marijuana, 16 percent have used cocaine at least once, and 74 percent admitted to lifetime tobacco use. U.S. respondents came in third for alcohol use, at 92 percent, after the Ukraine and Germany. More than 54,000 people in 17 countries participated in the survey, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

“The United States, which has been driving much of the world’s drug research and drug policy agenda, stands out, with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies, as well as [in many U.S. states], a higher minimum legal alcohol drinking age than many comparable developed countries,” reported the authors of an article on the findings in the journal, PLoS Medicine.

Lifetime marijuana use was virtually nonexistent in Asian countries. Cocaine use in Colombia, Mexico, Spain and New Zealand, next highest after the United States, was significantly lower, around 4 percent. Lowest lifetime tobacco use was found in South Africa, with 32 percent, and Nigeria, with 17 percent. Just 40 percent of South African respondents used alcohol.

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