Management of cannabis and psychostimulant use among general practice patients

Amie Frewen*, A. Arcuri, C. Harrison, J. Copeland, H. Britt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While regular and heavy cannabis and psychostimulant use has been associated with significant health and psychological impairments, the extent to which their use is being identified and managed by general practitioners (GPs) remains unclear. The aim of this study was to explore the management of cannabis- and psychostimulant-related problems in Australian general practice. Data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) study of general practice between April 2000 and March 2007 were analysed. BEACH is an ongoing national study of general practice activity in Australia. It was estimated that during this period GPs in Australia managed illicit drug use about 55,000 times per year and that cannabis and psychostimulants made up 3.2% and 1.6%, respectively, of all encounters at which the illicit drug was specified. The only difference inpatient demographics between patients in the two drug groups was that cannabis users were younger than psychostimulant users. Cannabis users were more likely to be managed concurrently for psychotic symptoms but less likely to be treated with antipsychotics. Conversely, patients using psychostimulants were more likely to be prescribed an antipsychotic and/or an anxiolytic for their presenting drug problem. These results suggest that GPs do manage problematic cannabis and psychostimulant use among their patients, and thus should be supported in carrying out appropriate screening, intervention and referral.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-140
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabis
  • General practitioner
  • Methamphetamine
  • Primary care
  • Psychostimulant


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