Are younger or older Australian employees more likely to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months?

Younger employed Australians tend to use pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes slightly more often than older employed Australians.

Pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids were used for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months by 3%** of employed Australians aged 14-17 years, 5% of those aged 18-24 years, 4% of those aged 25-29 years, 3% of those aged 30-39 years, 4% of those aged 40-49 years, 3% of those aged 50-59 years, and 3% of those aged 60+ years. Tranquillisers/sleeping pills were used for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months by 4%** of employed Australians aged 14-17 years, 2%* of those aged 18-24 years, 3% of those aged 25-29 years, 2% of those aged 30-39 years, 2% of those aged 40-49 years, 1% of those aged 50-59 years, and 0.9%* of those aged 60+ years. Methadone/buprenorphine were used for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months by 0.6%** of employed Australians aged 14-17 years, 0.5%* of those aged 18-24 years, 0.1%** of those aged 25-29 years, 0.1%** of those aged 30-39 years, 0.1%** of those aged 40-49 years, 0.0%** of those aged 50-59 years, and 0.0% of those aged 60+ years. Pharmaceutical drugs were used for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months by 6%* of employed Australians aged 14-17 years, 6% of those aged 18-24 years, 6% of those aged 25-29 years, 5% of those aged 30-39 years, 5% of those aged 40-49 years, 4% of those aged 50-59 years, and 3% of those aged 60+ years. * Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution. ** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

†This FAQ uses data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: the medical or non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids (panadeine forte, nurofen plus, mersyndol, disprin forte, morphine and oxycodone (excluding paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen where these drugs are the only active ingredients)), tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium) and methadone/buprenorphine (e.g., done, junk, jungle juice, bupe, sub).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Employed: Self-employed or working for salary or wages.

Non-medical use: A drug used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.