Do men or women in Australia use pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes more often?

Among Australians who have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, women are more likely than men to use every day and about once a month. Men are more likely than women to use every few months, and once or twice a year.

Among Australians who have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, women are more likely than men to use every day, once a week or more, and every few months. Men are more likely than women to use about once a month, and once or twice a year.

Pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids Among Australian men who have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, 5%* use every day, 21% use once a week or more, 13% use about once a month, 30% use every few months, and 31% use once or twice a year. Among Australian women who have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, 12% use every day, 21% use once a week or more, 20% use about once a month, 21% use every few months, and 26% use once or twice a year. Tranquillisers/sleeping pills: Among Australian men who have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, 6%* use every day, 11% use once a week or more, 26% use about once a month, 17% use every few months, and 40% use once or twice a year. Among Australian women who have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, 9% use every day, 14% use once a week or more, 18% use about once a month, 21% use every few months, and 37% use once or twice a year. * Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

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

Please note: 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)) and tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium).

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

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.

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