Does pharmaceutical drug use for non-medical purposes in Australia vary by jurisdiction?

Australians in different jurisdictions tend to use pharmaceutical drugsfor non-medical purposes at relatively similar rates. While there are some differences between jurisdictions, they are relatively small.

Among Australians in NSW, 9% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 3% have done so in the past year. 4% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 2% have done so in the past year. 0.2%* have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.1%* have done so in the past year. 12% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 4% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in VIC, 10% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 3% have done so in the past year. 5% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 2% have done so in the past year. 0.4% have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.1%* have done so in the past year. 13% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 5% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in QLD, 10% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 4% have done so in the past year. 4% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 1% have done so in the past year. 0.4%* have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.1%** have done so in the past year. 13% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 5% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in WA, 10% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 4% have done so in the past year. 5% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 2% have done so in the past year. 0.6%* have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.1%** have done so in the past year. 13% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 5% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in SA, 11% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 4% have done so in the past year. 4% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 1% have done so in the past year. 1%* have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.3%** have done so in the past year. 13% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 6% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in TAS, 11% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 3% have done so in the past year. 5% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 3%*have done so in the past year. 0.5%* have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.0%** have done so in the past year. 14% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 6% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in the ACT, 9% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 3% have done so in the past year. 5% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 1%* have done so in the past year. 0.8%** have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.6%** have done so in the past year. 12% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 4% have done so in the past year. Among Australians in the NT, 11% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 4% have done so in the past year. 5% have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 2%* have done so in the past year. 0.3%* have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 0.1%** have done so in the past year. 14% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime; and 5% have done so in the past year. * 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.

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.