Does lifetime pharmaceutical drug use in Australia vary by geographic location and gender?

Australian women residing in major cities are more likely than men to have used pharmaceutical drugs in their lifetime. In other geographic locations, rates of lifetime pharmaceutical drug use are similar for men and women.

When specific pharmaceutical drug types are considered, women are more likely than men to have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills in all geographical areas. Women residing in major cities are also more likely to have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids than their male counterparts, but pain-killer/pain-reliever/opioid use in regional and remote locations is similar for women and men. Rates of methadone/buprenorphine use are also fairly similar for women and men in all geographical locations.

Pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids: In major cities, 63% of men have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids in their lifetime, compared to 73% of women. In inner regional areas, 73% of men have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids in their lifetime, compared to 74% of women. In outer regional/remote areas, 72% of men have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids in their lifetime, compared to 73% of women. Tranquillisers/sleeping pills: In major cities, 20% of men have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills in their lifetime, compared to 30% of women. In inner regional areas, 21% of men have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills in their lifetime, compared to 29% of women. In outer regional/remote areas, 20% of men have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills in their lifetime, compared to 26% of women. Methadone/buprenorphine: In major cities, 1% of men have used methadone/buprenorphine in their lifetime, compared to 0.9% of women. In inner regional areas, 0.8%* of men have used methadone/buprenorphine in their lifetime, compared to 1% of women. In outer regional/remote areas, 2% of men have used methadone/buprenorphine in their lifetime, compared to 1%* of women. Any pharmaceutical drug: In major cities, 65% of men have used pharmaceutical drugs in their lifetime, compared to 76% of women. In inner regional areas, 74% of men have used pharmaceutical drugs in their lifetime, compared to 76% of women. In outer regional/remote areas, 74% of men have used pharmaceutical drugs in their lifetime, compared to 75% of women. * 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).

† 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.

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.