Shifting areas of need in treatment for alcohol and other drugs

Paul Hayes

17/04/2019 1:34:03 PM

Alcohol remains the most common drug for which people seek treatment, but that is declining as treatment for amphetamines and cocaine skyrockets.

Ice, methamphetamines
Treatment services for amphetamines increased by close to 75% between 2013–14 and 2017–18.

More than 130,000 Australians – one in every 166 people – aged 10 and older received specialist treatment for alcohol and other drugs in 2017–18, according to the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
While alcohol remains the most common drug for people seek treatment, accounting for close to 69,000 of the 210,000 closed treatment episodes provided, its use has declined – from 40% in 2013–14 to 34% in 2017–18.
The number of treatment episodes with amphetamines as a principal drug of concern increased by close to 75% (from 28,919 to 50,596) between 2013–14 and 2017–18, while treatment for cocaine increased by 153% (from 550 to 1393) over the same period.
‘Over the last five years, alcohol has consistently been the most common drug clients received treatment for,’ AIHW spokesperson Matthew James. ‘[But] amphetamines now account for a quarter of all treatment episodes, up from 17% in 2013–14.
‘One in five treatment episodes [21%] were for cannabis and treatment for heroin continues to decline [5%].’
Treatment for heroin decreased by around 13% (from 12,000 to 10,404), and morphine dropped by 40% (from 1609 to 970) between 2013–14 and 2017–18.
A total of 952 publicly-funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies provided services in 2017–18. More than half (54%) of those who sought treatment were aged 20–39, 34% were aged 40 and older, and 13% were aged 10–19. Counselling was the most common treatment type provided.
The AIHW report showed variation across the country in terms of the most common principal drugs of concern:


  • Northern Territory (58% of treatment episodes)
  • Australian Capital Territory (43%)
  • Tasmania (41%), New South Wales (38%)
  • Victoria (32%)
  • South Australia (35%)
  • Western Australia (34%)
  • Queensland (32.3%)

Drugs-Alcohol-Table-Article.jpgAIHW alcohol and other drug treatment services national minimum data set (from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

AIHW alcohol and other drugs amphetamines treatment

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