What proportion of alcohol and drug treatment episodes in Australia are related to pharmaceutical drugs?

Pharmaceutical drugs are the principal drug of concern in 4% of all alcohol and other drug treatment episodes in Australia. Benzodiazepines account for the largest proportion of these pharmaceutical drug-related treatment episodes (25%).

In 2016-17 in Australia, alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 32% of all alcohol and other drug treatment episodes, cannabis in 22%, amphetamines in 26%, heroin in 5%, pharmaceutical drugs in 4%, and other drugs in 11%. Of all pharmaceutical drug-related treatment episodes in 2016-17, methadone accounted for 20%; benzodiazepines for 25%, codeine for 16%, morphine for 15%, oxycodone for 12%, and buprenorphine for 12%.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2016-17 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

† This FAQ uses data from the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Dataset, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: benzodiazepines, codeine, morphine, buprenorphine, oxycodone, and methadone.

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.