This report draws together data from multiple sources to examine cannabis availability, use and treatment in Australia over time. A considerable strength of this work is the use of multiple rich data sets to provide a more holistic understanding of the characteristics of people who use cannabis and those who receive treatment for cannabis.

There are several limitations to this study that should be considered when interpreting the results. The data sources examined are not comparable as they use different methodologies to capture information about cannabis, and results from each data source may not necessarily be indicative of the whole population. The patterns presented across data sources here are not exhaustive and are intended to indicate where further research and enhancements to data could help improve the understanding of cannabis availability, use and treatment in Australia. Additional data sources on cannabis use and related harms are available, including the:

  • National Ambulance Surveillance System for Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse and Overdose
  • National Hospital Morbidity Database
  • National Mortality Database
  • National Prisoner Health Data collection.

Further information on the scope and limitations of the individual data sources included in this report are outlined in Technical notes.

Future directions

This report highlights a need for further work to identify people who may be at increased risk of harms related to cannabis use, and develop tailored interventions targeted to meeting the holistic needs of these people. In particular, there is a need for further research to better understand the complex relationship between cannabis use, mental health, and co-occurring substance use to identify optimal treatments. There is also a need to monitor changes in cannabis use and treatment in the context of increasing access to medical cannabis and other policy changes (for example, decriminalisation of cannabis possession for personal use in the Australian Capital Territory).

In the context of the administrative treatment services data (AODTS NMDS), further work may seek to incorporate global measurement standards for treatment outcomes (such as the patient-centred outcome measures provided by the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement) to improve service delivery. This work would allow for a more nuanced understanding of the treatment goals and individual needs of clients seeking support for cannabis use.