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Section 3 - Users Opinions of Drugs

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Respondents were asked to subjectively 'rate' all drugs on a scale of 0-10, whether they had ever used them or not. They typically provided very strong positive ratings for cannabis, and strong positives for mushrooms, LSD and ecstasy. The strongest negative ratings were for the fictitious drug 'Bliss', solvents, and crack (Tables 3.1-3.5).

There was a significant relationship between the frequency of use of all drugs and the subjective ratings of those drugs. Those who had never used any particular drug tended to give it strong negative ratings. The greater the frequency of use the higher the rating. The exceptions were heroin and cocaine, where the very small number of daily users provided lower ratings than regular but less than daily users, possibly a reaction to dependence on the drugs (Table 3.4).

Users were also asked to briefly describe their own best and worst experiences of drugs. Many mentioned combinations of drugs, and all explanations were in their own words, which we have summarised and given quotes from (Tables 3.6-3.7). Quotes are independent of the numbers of summarised responses given - many gave no reasons for naming particular drugs. Their reasons for choosing these experiences were often to do with specific occasions or settings, so exact comparisons with the ratings or other studies of positive/negative feelings about drugs cannot easily be made.

The most common best drug experiences were with LSD, cannabis, ecstasy and mushrooms, in that order, alone or in combinations. The worst were with LSD, alcohol, mushrooms and cannabis, in that order. A large number gave LSD, or mushrooms, as the cause of both best and worst experiences. The general rating and the ratings by users, strongly positive in both cases, indicate that opinion is not polarised over these drugs, rather that users are willing to accept the risk of a bad trip in the expectation of a pleasant one.

These attitudes are comparable to those in the Release drugs and dance survey - drugs which the respondents had taken were most likely to be thought reasonable candidates for legalising possession, with the shift in attitude greatest for cannabis and LSD. Their respondents" favourite drugs to take generally were cannabis (64%), ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, and mushrooms.


Section 4 - Cannabis Use

Patterns of cannabis use were the main subject of this survey, occupying half the questionnaire. Every study known names cannabis as the most commonly used illegal drug among those who have ever used any, and among current drug users. In general population studies those who have ever used the drug are at best divided into a range of categories from 'Ever used' to 'Regular user'. There is very little consistency in the way these categories are defined, but regular usually means more than once weekly.

We asked multiple questions about levels of cannabis use, as controls. As well as the range of eight average use levels in the questions about all drugs, there were questions about spending and subjective rating. Separate questions were also asked about most recent use and purchase of cannabis, average monthly use, purchase and spending, and how many joints or pipes were filled and smoked per day. Different figures for the amounts used and money spent came in response to differently phrased questions, but they were generally consistent and very closely correlated (r = 0.98). There was a much lower correlation between purchase and use. This may indicate that the question posed in 1984, on how much was bought in the previous month, may have been flawed. In a number of cases the amounts bought and used do not closely match; factors causing this included the use of home grown, families where only one person does the buying, and social and/or commercial supply.

It was correctly assumed that nearly all respondents would have used cannabis; 95% had done so within the previous week, so would be classed as 'regular users' by most studies (Table 4.1). 15% had never tried any other illegal drug. Just over 2% had used it under 10 times; just over 1% had stopped using. Because of the festival surroundings this is likely to include some who use cannabis less frequently, who considered this a special occasion. 42% gave "Now" as their most recent use, i.e. while they were filling in the survey form.

Overall, the average cannabis consumption of the respondents was 24.8g per month, around seven eighths of an ounce. They claimed to buy 64.3g per month, just over two and a quarter ounces. Two differently phrased questions were put about amounts spent, and the overall average results correlated closely at £68.60 per month. Differences may have been due to different numbers of missing values, as several respondents failed to complete the second side of the questionnaire.

For these tables we merged the "daily" and "more than daily" responses from Table 2.1 above, as 'daily'. The 'regular but not weekly' and the 'weekly but not daily' were combined as 'regular', and the 'used once' and 'used under 10 times' as 'experimental'. 'Non users' included those who had given up, who had not yet used the drug, and those who had left the question blank.

The greatest use, purchase and spending on cannabis was by daily users (Table 4.5). Their consumption averaged 34.8g per month, Average spending was £94.20. The maximum accepted personal consumption was 200-250g, or 7-9oz per month (10 respondents).

Unwaged respondents reported spending the least per gram of cannabis used, and buying the most compared with workers or students. This may represent social or commercial supplying, smoking other peoples, or homegrown use. Students used the least and spent the most per gram on it (Table 4.6).


Methods of Use

The most common method of using cannabis is mixed with tobacco into 'joints' or 'spliffs'. Although some people use 'spliffs' to mean only neat herbal cannabis cigarettes, here the terms are interchangeable. Some forensic scientists and civil servants use the obsolete slang 'reefers', which we have succumbed to where discussing comparable data.

Respondents reported 72.5% of use to be in joints (Tables 4.7-4.8). Users claimed on average to roll 5 a day and smoke 6. The most frequent users rolled an average 8 and smoked 10 joints per day. The difference could be accounted for by the sharing of joints, which is very common. The number they rolled may be the more reliable indicator of consumption. Herbal cannabis is frequently smoked "neat" without added tobacco, which accounts for about 5% of reported consumption. Either variety can be smoked in pipes (19%), or eaten by itself or in other food (4%). Around 1 to 2% of respondents consumed 50% or more of their cannabis in food or drink, and around 25% eat or drink their cannabis on occasions. Other methods include heating between hot knives, on the end of a pin, or inside a bottle or bucket. The use of joints is higher than in our 1984 survey, use of pipes is lower, and use of hot knives is much lower.

Published and unpublished Home Office data suggests that the average amount of herbal cannabis in what they refer to as a reefer is approximately 200mg, and approximately 140mg for cannabis resin. These and other reports have shown a very wide range of amounts of cannabis in a joint, from a few milligrams to over one gram, with a significant minority containing over 300mg . Most of these reports only analysed joints rolled with tobacco. The Chepstow Forensic Science laboratory found that of 107 unsmoked reefers analysed, five contained cannabis only, four of these containing between 451mg and 483mg of herbal cannabis.

By dividing the reported monthly cannabis use by the total number of pipes and joints smoked, it is possible to make a crude estimate of the average amounts of cannabis in joints (Table 4.9). The mean amount was 162mg, with 10.6% of the estimates being over 300mg, 3.3% over 500mg, and 1.7% over 750mg. When the results were weighted to take account of non-daily users, the average estimated content rose to 196mg. These distributions are broadly consistent with the forensic laboratory data.


Home Grown

Home cultivation of cannabis is very common, 60% of respondents had grown at least some of their own cannabis at some time. Half of those had grown less than 5 plants on the most recent occasion, and the average grown was 19 plants, with daily users (who grew) averaging 23 plants, whereas experimental users (who grew) averaged 5.5 plants. Most of this home growing would be to attain self-sufficiency, rather than intended for profit, where harvests would be larger and more consistent.

A large majority (75%) of growers did so indoors, 77% using sunlight either exclusively or in combination with lights. High-intensity discharge lights, such as metal halide or high pressure sodium, had been used by one grower in six (17%). One in three growers (35%) had used "pedigree" seeds such as 'Skunk' or 'Northern Lights' either exclusively or in combination. Those who grew more were more likely to have tried combinations of seed sources and growing methods.

The more cannabis they bought and used in general, the more likely respondents were to have grown their own, and the more plants they had grown. Those who had grown 10 or more plants were significantly heavier users (average 37g/month) than non-growers (20g). Those who had never grown any also reported buying less and spending less on cannabis than growers. However, they spent more per gram (Tables 4.10-4.13).


Other consumption studies

The authors' previous cannabis consumption surveys (1982 and 1984) of 240 and 607 regular cannabis users respectively found that the "average" (mean) cannabis usage was just over one ounce per month (29.3 & 29.9g). Both surveys showed very similar patterns, with a large number of relatively moderate users (median usage was 14g/month), but a smaller number of heavy and very heavy users (mean use for 'more than daily' users was 65.8g), with a maximum usage of 150g, or just over 6 ounces, per month. Users of imported herbal cannabis had a higher mean consumption (57.1g/month) than users of resin. The results of the current survey suggest a slight decrease in average consumption since 1984, although there are a larger number of very heavy users.

Fairbairn"s 1973 study of reefer contents quoted regular use by three groups of experimental subjects of (a) 2g to 6g of cannabis per day (mean 3.8g), (b) 0.1g to 1g per day (mean 0.3g), and (c) 0.3g to 8.3g per day (mean 2.8g), with some users smoking 10-20 reefers per day. The heaviest user in his study consumed 252g per month, consistent with the heaviest reported users from these surveys.

Caplin & Woodward, for the BBC"s Drugwatch TV special, conducted a survey of drug users in 1984. The "cannabis only" users spent an average £12 per week, representing 3.8g to 5.9g per week at 1984 prices. The heaviest 8%, spending up to £30 per week, used 9.6g to 15.8g per week at 1984 prices. However, these did not include the "cannabis plus other drugs" users, who spent up to £200 per week in total, a significant proportion of which may have been on cannabis by heavy users who occasionally used other drugs (i.e. the common pattern in our surveys). The Drugwatch study was targeted towards problem users of (mainly) class A drugs. The overall response rate is not stated, (3000 questionnaires were distributed) although the "cannabis only" group constituted only 3% of the total sample.

McBride's recent study of cannabis use in 100 attenders at a drug and alcohol clinic in South Wales found average use of 10.5g per week with the heaviest user reporting 70g per week at a cost of £250. McBride calculated, on the basis of responses to questions about the number of joints per eighth or sixteenth ounce, that users would consume 350mg of cannabis resin, or 620g herbal cannabis, in a joint. Those who did not use tobacco would consume about 27% more cannabis or resin per joint or pipe than those who used a mix, although there was no difference in the overall cannabis usage between these two groups.

The consumption levels found in the UK. market, restricted by the high unit cost of cannabis, are considerably lower than in countries where use of cannabis is traditional. Where plentiful supplies are cultivated locally, the amount consumed can exceed 2oz (56g) per day . The singer Bob Marley was reported to smoke over an ounce per day Looking at the dosage of THC to which smokers were exposed, Rubin, Bowman & Pihl, and Beaubrun found THC dosages of 60 to 420 mg/day, equivalent to smoking 2 to 14 grams per day with 3% THC. Stephanis et al found that hashish users in Greece used an average of 7.48g per day, equivalent to the heaviest UK users.

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