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  • Writer's pictureDASA

Drug addiction and treatment in Australia – new statistics

One in every 166 people (130,000) in Australia are getting specialist public treatment for substance use in 2017–18, according to the most recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018 recently released.

 The most common substance addictions leading to rehab treatment in Australia are:  Alcohol - 34%;  Amphetamines - 25%;  Marijuana / Cannabis - 21%  and Heroin - 5%.

Alcohol is still by far the most commonly abused substance in Australia getting treatment (34%) with more than one third of treatments but this has fallen from 40% in 2013-2014. 

Treatment for amphetamine addiction is increasing though. It was 25% in 2017-2018 up from 17% in 2013-2014. Cannabis was the third most common drug problem treated and accounting for one in five treatments. Notably in Queensland, cannabis treatment was slightly more common than alcohol. This might be due to more treatment services being available. The most common types of treatment included assessment, counselling and management of withdrawal.  Counselling made up 40% of treatment episodes and most patients had their treatment as outpatients.

One of the biggest challenges we face is the lack of treatment services. Given the continuing problems with addiction and deaths including increasing deaths from methamphetamine, there is a critical need for more services. It is very distressing to see patients who want help and who cannot access any because of lack of availability.

And in terms of cost-effectiveness of treatment, several estimate that every $1 invested in addiction treatment programs returns $4 - $7 in less crime and legal and imprisonment costs. If you include health-related costs the savings go to 12 to 1! Other indirect savings include increased productivity at work, fewer conflicts with other people and fewer accidents.

If you have any questions about managing drugs at your workplace or about workplace drug and alcohol testing specifically, contact us via

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