Illicit use of drugs in Australia

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that the illicit use of drugs causes death and disability and is a risk factor for many diseases.

It is also associated with risks to users’ family and friends and to the community.
Illicit use of drugs includes use of illegal drugs, misuse or non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs, or inappropriate use of other substances (such as inhalants).
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Drug trends and statistics

The Australian Department of Health the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 collects information on illegal drug use, and alcohol and tobacco consumption among the general population in Australia. The key findings for the survey are:


  • Young adults are drinking less, and fewer 12 to 17 year old’s are drinking.
  • More people in their 50’s are consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one drinking session.Illicit use of drugs
  • In 2016, around 3.1 million Australians reported using an illicit drug.
  • In 2016, the most common illicit drug was cannabis, followed by misuse of pharmaceuticals, cocaine, and then ecstasy.
  • While overall use of methamphetamine has decreased, use of crystal methamphetamine (ice) continues to be a problem.
  • People who are using crystal methamphetamine (ice), are using it more frequently which increases the risks and harms.

Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug 2014

More than 23,000 secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years participated in the Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug survey 2014. They were asked about their lifetime and current use of:

  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • analgesics, such as Disprin, Panadol and Nurofen
  • tranquilizers
  • illegal substances.The key findings for the survey are shown below:Alcohol
  • In 2014, almost half of all Australian secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years had consumed alcohol in the year preceding
  • The proportion of students who consumed alcohol in the week preceding the survey (current drinkers) increased with age, from 4 per cent of 12-year-olds to 36 per cent of 17-year-olds.Illicit substances
  • Cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance with 16 per cent of students aged between 12 and 17 years ever using cannabis and 7 per cent using it in the month before the survey.
  • The proportion of students using cannabis increased with age.

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