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

Over the ten year period 2004 - 2014 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 40% in 2013-14.  In comparison, rates of treatment for amphetamines have increased (from 11% to 17%), while treatment for heroin has declined (from 17% to 7%). Rates of treatment for cannabis and other drugs have remained relatively stable.

In Australia in 2004-2005, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 37% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 23%; heroin in 17%; amphetamines in 11%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2005-2006, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 39% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 25%; heroin in 14%; amphetamines in 11%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2006-2007, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 42% of treatment episodes; cannabis in 23%; heroin in 11%; amphetamines in 12%; and other drugs in 12%. In Australia in 2007-2008, 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 2008-2009, 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 2009-2010, 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 2010-2011, 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 2011-2012, 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 2012-2013, 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 2013-2014, 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%.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). (2015). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2013-14.

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.