Is the employment status of Australians related to non-medical pharmaceutical drug use in the past 12 months?

Australians tend to use pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes at relatively similar rates, regardless of employment status. However, unemployed Australians are slightly more likely than Australians who are employed or not in the labour force to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months.

4% of employed Australians used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, compared to 5% of unemployed Australians, and 3% of those not in the labour force. 2% of employed Australians used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, compared to 2%* of unemployed Australians, and 1% of those not in the labour force. 0.1%* of employed Australians used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, compared to 0.3%** of unemployed Australians, and 0.1%* of those not in the labour force. 5% of employed Australians used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, compared to 6% of unemployed Australians, and 4% of those not in the labour force. * 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 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.

Employment Status: Whether an individual is currently: a) employed; b) unemployed; or c) not in the labour force.

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.

Not in the Labour Force: Engaged in home duties, volunteer/charity work, student, retiree/pensioner, other.

Unemployed: Those who are not currently working and are actively seeking employment.