Does lifetime pharmaceutical drug use in Australia vary by jurisdiction?

The Australian Capital Territory had the highest level of lifetime use of any pharmaceutical drug, whilst New South Wales had the lowest.

When specific pharmaceutical drug types are considered, lifetime use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids is highest in the Australian Capital Territory (75%) and lowest in New South Wales (67%). Lifetime use of tranquillisers/sleeping pills is highest in Tasmania (28%), and lowest in New South Wales (23%). Rates of methadone/buprenorphine use are relatively similar across jurisdictions at approximately 1-2%.

In NSW, 67% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 23% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 0.7% have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 70% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In VIC, 69% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 26% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 1% have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 71% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In QLD, 72% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 27% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 1% have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 75% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In WA, 72% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 26% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 1% have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 74% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In SA, 71% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 26% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 2% have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 74% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In TAS, 72% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 28% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 1%* have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 74% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In the ACT, 75% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 27% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 1%* have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 78% had used any pharmaceutical drug. In the NT, 69% of people have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids during their lifetime; 22% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills; 1%* have used methadone/buprenorphine; and 71% had used any pharmaceutical drug. * 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.