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

Use of pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes is slightly less common in major cities, compared to inner regional and outer regional/remote/very remote areas.

When considering specific drug types, non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids is also slightly less common in major cities, but use of tranquilisers/sleeping pills and methadone/buprenorphine is relatively similar across geographic locations.

Among Australians living in major cities, 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 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. 12% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime, and 5% have done so in the past year. Among Australians living in inner regional areas, 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. 0.5% have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes in their lifetime, and 0.2%* 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 living in outer regional/remote/very remote areas, 12% have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in their lifetime, and 5% 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 0.0%** have done so in the past year. 15% have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime, and 6% 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).

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)), 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: Drugs used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.