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Alcohol cost spurs drug use

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Health experts say that the cost of alcohol in Australia is driving the country’s high rates of drug use, despite the high price of illicit substances.

Australia has some of the highest per capita rates of illicit drug use in the world, ranking first for ecstasy, second for opioids, third for amphetamines and fourth for cocaine, according to a Fairfax report.

• Alcohol kills 15 Aussies a day
• Aussies smoking less but taking more drugs

Leading researchers say that substances like ecstasy are a “sensible” economic choice for those looking for a night out, with Australia also one of the most expensive countries to buy alcohol.

“Substitution between substances, whether they’re legal or illegal, is very common,” NDARC drug policy modelling program director Alison Ritter said.

“That’s just sensible consumer behaviour at one level … It’s no different to the choices one makes when shopping in a supermarket.”

The 2014 UN World Drug Report has also found that Australia is one of the most expensive countries to buy illicit substances, with the second highest cost of amphetamines in the world, but this has not lessened the demand for drugs.

Greater awareness about the risks associated with alcohol and tobacco have also pushed some people toward drugs like cannabis and marijuana said Cameron Duff of Monash University’s School of Psychology and Psychiatry.

Researchers also argue that substances like ecstasy are a safer drug than alcohol.

Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Alex Wodak says there is “no doubt alcohol is far more damaging”.

“[Ecstasy] is not harmless by any means … But if people migrated from alcohol to cannabis or ecstasy, they would be migrating from high risk to low risk,” Dr Wodak said.