1 in 200 Australians seek treatment for alcohol and other drugs

About 1 in 200 people in Australia sought treatment for alcohol and other drug use in 2014–15, with just over half of those (54 per cent) reporting more than one drug of concern, according to a report released by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW).

New data in the report Alcohol and other drugs treatment services in Australia, 2014–15, show that about 115,000 clients received more than 170,000 treatment episodes over the year from 843 agencies across Australia. While alcohol (38 per cent) continued to be the main drug clients sought treatment for, amphetamine treatment doubled from 9 per cent to 20 per cent between 2010–11 and 2014–15.

“Over the last decade, alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin continued to be the most common principal drugs of concern in Australia,” said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

“For alcohol and other drug treatment service clients aged 30 and over, alcohol was the most common drug, while for clients aged 10–29 it was cannabis.”

Over the past 10 years, the percentage of younger clients (aged 20–29) being treated fell from 33 per cent to 27 per cent, while those aged 40 and over rose from 26 per cent to 32 per cent.

“While the proportion of treatment episodes for alcohol has fallen since 2010–11 from 47 per cent to 38 per cent, more clients are seeking treatment for smoking and/or inhaling amphetamines,” Beard said.

Just under two-thirds (64 per cent) of clients reported additional substance use when amphetamine was the principal drug of concern.

Most (70 per cent) treatment episodes were provided in Major cities, while 26 per cent were provided in Inner and Outer regional areas, and 4 per cent were provided in Remote (3 per cent) or Very remote (1 per cent) areas.

The majority (87 per cent) of clients were born in Australia. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) were male and over half (54 per cent) were aged 20–39. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were overrepresented among clients. Despite only comprising 2.7 per cent of the population, 1 in 7 (15 per cent) clients were Indigenous.

Nationally, 26 per cent of clients were diverted from the criminal justice system into alcohol and other drug treatment programs.

The majority of clients received treatment in a non-residential facility, such as a community health centre. The most common types of treatment included counselling, assessment and withdrawal management, with counselling accounting for 2 in 5 treatment episodes.

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