Treatment

This section contains information on the provision of medical/psychological treatment for alcohol use. It covers how many Australians seek professional treatment for alcohol-related problems, who is most likely to do so, and changes in these patterns over time.

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set 2017-18 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019) is the source of data used in this section. It is the only Australian data source which provides a synthesis of state and territory data on publicly funded alcohol-related treatment.

What proportion of alcohol and drug treatment episodes in Australia are alcohol-related?

In 2017-18, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 35% of all alcohol and other drug treatment episodes in Australia. Treatment was sought more often for alcohol than for any other drug.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017-18.

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.

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

Over the ten year period 2008 - 2018 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 35% by 2017-18.

In comparison, rates of treatment for amphetamines have tripled (from 9% to 27%), while treatment for heroin has declined (from 11% to 6%). Rates of treatment for cannabis have remained relatively stable.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017-18.

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.

Are men or women in Australia more likely to receive treatment for alcohol use?

Australian men are more likely to receive treatment for alcohol use than Australian women. In 2017-18, men accounted for 65% of all alcohol-related treatment episodes and women accounted for 35%.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017-18. (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

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.

Please note: The percentages reported here differ to those reported in the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017-18 report. The report percentages were based on a reduced sample of client records with a valid statistical linkage key, whilst the percentages presented above include the complete sample who reported their gender.

Are younger or older Australians more likely to receive treatment for alcohol use?

Australians aged 40-49 are the age group most likely to receive treatment for alcohol use, accounting for 28% of all alcohol-related treatment episodes. Very old (60+ years) and very young (10-19 years) Australians are least likely to receive treatment for alcohol use.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017-18 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

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

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.

Please note: The percentages reported here differ to those reported in the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017-18 report. The report percentages were based on a reduced sample of client records with a valid statistical linkage key, whilst the percentages presented above include the complete sample who reported their age.