Australia: More People Treated for Alcohol Use Than Any Other Drug

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) finds that alcohol is the most common drug of concern for clients of publicly funded specialist alcohol and other drug treatment services.

The report is titled “Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2018­–19” and provides data gathered from just under 220,000 closed treatment episodes provided to an estimated 137,000 clients of publicly funded specialist alcohol and other drug treatment services.

Several key findings on alcohol from the report are as follows:

  • Alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 36% of treatment episodes.
  • Alcohol was the main or an additional drug of concern in 48% of cases.
  • In one-third (33%) of treatment episodes where alcohol was the principal drug of concern, the client also reported other drugs of concern—most commonly cannabis or nicotine.

Amphetamines were the second-most common principal drug of concern (28% of treatment episodes), behind alcohol (36%) and ahead of cannabis (20%) and heroin (5%).

In terms of age and drug use,

  • Cannabis was the  principal drug of concern (58% of treatment episodes) for clients aged 10–19;
  • Amphetamines were the most common for clients aged 20–29 years and 30–39 years (36% and 38%, respectively); and
  • Alcohol was the most common drug of concern for clients aged 40 and over (56%).

Rehabilitation and withdrawal management with counselling accounted for 39% of the treatment services provided.

Notably, this report contains information from the time period before the 2019-20 summer bushfires and the COVID–19 pandemic.

Another report was published by the AIHW entitled “Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Australia” which summarizes more recently published research into alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. This report shows that while alcohol spending increased in March 2020, the trend reversed in April 2020 which is consistent with Movendi International’s previous reporting that alcohol consumption is continuing to decline in Australia.