How has the proportion of alcohol-related treatment episodes in Australia changed over time compared to other drugs?

Over the ten year period 2007 - 2017 in Australia, the proportion of treatment episodes in which alcohol was the principal drug of concern increased to a peak of 48% in 2009-10, and then declined to 32% in 2015-16/2016-17. In comparison, rates of treatment for amphetamines have approximately doubled (from 11% to 26%), while treatment for heroin has declined (from 11% to 5%). Rates of treatment for cannabis have remained relatively stable.

In Australia in 2007-08, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 44% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 22%; heroin in 11%; amphetamines in 11%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2008-09, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 46% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 23%; heroin in 10%; amphetamines in 9%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2009-10, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 48% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 23%; heroin in 10%; amphetamines in 7%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2010-11, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 47% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 22%; heroin in 9%; amphetamines in 9%; and other drugs in 13%. In Australia in 2011-12, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 46% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 22%; heroin in 9%; amphetamines in 11%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2012-13, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 41% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 24%; heroin in 8%; amphetamines in 14%; and other drugs in 13%. In Australia in 2013-14, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 40% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 24%; heroin in 7%; amphetamines in 17%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2014-15, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 38% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 24%; heroin in 6%; amphetamines in 20%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2015-16, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 32% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 23%; heroin in 6%; amphetamines in 23%; and other drugs in 17%. In Australia in 2016-17, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 32% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 22%; heroin in 5%; amphetamines in 26%; and other drugs in 15%.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2016-17.

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding.

Principal Drug of Concern: The main substance that leads an individual to seek treatment from an alcohol and drug treatment agency (as stated by the individual).

Treatment Episode: A period of contact between a client and a treatment provider. Only ‘closed’ treatment episodes are included in the data used here. An episode is closed if there is a change in the principal drug of concern, main treatment, or service delivery setting; if the treatment ends; or if the patient is imprisoned or dies.