Updated on May 17, 2024
4 min read

Addiction Statistics in Australia

Addiction is a complex issue that affects millions of Australians, with far-reaching consequences for individuals, families, and society as a whole. From alcohol and tobacco to illicit drugs, addiction in Australia requires a comprehensive understanding of the factors behind them to effectively address this public health challenge.

In this article, we will explore the latest statistics on addiction in Australia, shedding light on the prevalence, trends, and comparative insights that paint a picture of the nation's struggle with substance abuse.

Key Statistics on Addiction in Australia

Prevalence and Trends

The scale of addiction in Australia is alarming, with a significant portion of the population grappling with substance abuse. Consider these statistics:

  • The Department of Health found that 1 in 6 Australians have a drug addiction, and 1 in 10 have an alcohol addiction, indicating that more than 2 million people in Australia are suffering from addiction.
  • 6,000 Australians die each year as a result of alcohol abuse.
  • 1 in 5 Australians aged 18 years and older drink at levels that put their health at risk.
  • Substance abuse in Australia involves the overuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, often leading to health and everyday functioning problems.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 Australians have an addiction or substance abuse problem.
  • Tobacco and alcohol are the most commonly abused substances in Australia, with the most used illicit drugs including cannabis, cocaine, and ecstasy.

Illicit Drug Use and Demographics

Illicit drug use in Australia is a complex issue, with varying prevalence across different substances and demographics. Here are some notable statistics:

  • In 2020, specific drug use statistics included around 2.8 million cannabis users, approximately 113,000 regular cocaine users, 237,000 regular amphetamine users, and 283,000 individuals addicted to opioids.
  • Within the LGBTQA+ community, 27% of participants aged 14 to 17 years and 43% of those aged 18 to 21 years reported using any drug for non-medical purposes in the previous 6 months.
  • In 2019, around 3.4 million Australians reported using an illicit drug in the last 12 months, with cannabis being the most common illicit drug, followed by ecstasy, misuse of pharmaceuticals, and then cocaine.
  • The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 highlighted that young adults are drinking less, and fewer 12 to 17-year-olds are drinking, although more people in their 50s are consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one session.

Treatment and Recovery

Understanding the landscape of treatment and recovery is crucial in addressing the addiction crisis in Australia. Consider these statistics:

  • 58% of individuals who complete drug or alcohol treatment in Australia achieve long-term recovery goals, which include full sobriety, improved relationships, and contributing to society.
  • 65% of addicts complete their drug or alcohol rehabilitation and about 50% of those relapse.
  • Between 2021 and 2022, 42% of rehab treatment episodes focused on alcohol abuse.
  • Among those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) histories, 87% recovered from the initial episode by age 30, with recovery more likely to be maintained after five years of non-recurrence.

Trends in Addiction

Analyzing trends in addiction over time provides valuable insights into the evolving nature of substance abuse in Australia. Here are some key observations:

  • There has been a notable decrease in alcohol consumption among young adults and teenagers, with fewer 12 to 17-year-olds drinking and young adults drinking less.
  • The use of methamphetamine has shown a steady decline since 1998, reaching its lowest point in recent years.
  • There has been a significant increase in the use of illicit drugs among people aged 35 to 55 years, driven primarily by increases in the use of cannabis, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
  • Despite the media's focus on illicit drugs, alcohol remains a significant cause of harm.
  • There has been a decline in drinking that increases the risk of harm over a lifetime, and the age of first use for substances like methamphetamine, cannabis, and hallucinogens has increased.
AlcoholDecrease among young adults and teenagers
MethamphetamineSteady decline since 1998, lowest point in recent years
Illicit DrugsIncrease among people aged 35 to 55 years

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International Comparisons

Comparing Australia's addiction statistics to other countries provides context and highlights areas where the nation stands out.

Here are some notable comparisons:

  • Australia has a lower proportion of daily smokers (11.2%) compared to the OECD average, which is 16.1% (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental organization comprised of high-income countries, including the United States).
  • Australia's per capita consumption of pure alcohol (10.1 litres) is higher than the OECD average (8.4 litres).
  • Australia exhibits high levels of illicit drug use, particularly in the consumption of methylamphetamine (ice), where it leads globally.
  • The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's report highlighted Australia's dominant position in the global consumption of methylamphetamine, with the highest per capita use compared to 24 other countries.
SubstanceAustraliaOECD Average
Daily Smokers11.2%16.1%
Pure Alcohol Consumption10.1 litres8.4 litres
Austrailia addiction chart

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Updated on May 17, 2024

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