Drug use does not appear to be related to drug policy, as countries with more stringent policies (e.g., the US) did not have lower levels of illegal drug use than countries with more liberal policies (e.g., The Netherlands).
This is the conclusion in a recent publication in PLoS Medicine: Toward a Global View of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, and Cocaine Use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys.
The researchers set out to collect basic patterns of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use in different countries. They documented lifetime use of these substances in each county, focusing on young adults. They also wanted to examine the age of onset of use and whether the type of drugs used was affected by one's social and economic status.
Other important results of this survey:
- In the Americas, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, alcohol had been used by the vast majority of survey participants, compared to smaller proportions in the Middle East, Africa, and China
- The US has the highest levels of both legal and illegal drug use among all countries surveyed
- Males were more likely than females to have used all drug types: legal and illegal
- Younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used all drugs examined
- Higher income was related to drug use of all kinds
- Marital status was found to be linked only to illegal drug use
- The use of cocaine and cannabis is more likely in people who have never been married or were previously married
PLoS Medicine is an excellent open journal , you can read the whole article or the editors'summary here
Degenhardt, L., Chiu, W., Sampson, N., Kessler, R.C., Anthony, J.C., Angermeyer, M., Bruffaerts, R., de Girolamo, G., Gureje, O., Huang, Y., Karam, A., Kostyuchenko, S., Lepine, J.P., Mora, M.E., Neumark, Y., Ormel, J.H., Pinto-Meza, A., Posada-Villa, J., Stein, D.J., Takeshima, T., Wells, J.E., Hay, P. (2008). Toward a Global View of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, and Cocaine Use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. PLoS Medicine, 5(7), e141. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050141