Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of cannabis and amphetamine use in the world, according to comprehensive research on illicit drug use.

Up to 15 per cent of 15 to 64 year olds in the two countries use cannabis, while 2.8 per cent of the same age group use drugs such as speed and crystal meth. The latter figure does not include use of ecstasy.

The data is part of a series of papers published in The Lancet examining global drug use and law enforcement, which was led by Professor Louisa Degenhardt, who is based at UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

In 2009, 10 to 15 per cent of people in Oceania had used marijuana in the previous year, compared with 1.2 to 2.5 per cent in Asia. Between 2 and 2.8 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders used amphetamines in that period, compared to 0.2 to 1.4 per cent of people in Africa and Asia.

The authors report that in a high-income country such as Australia, illicit drugs are responsible for 2 per cent of years lost due to disability, compared with 2.3 per cent for alcohol and 7.8 per cent for tobacco.

The study has been reported extensively around the world, including in the Sydney Morning Herald.

For a review of the research, go to NDARC's website