What types of pharmaceutical drugs do Australians use for non-medical purposes?

The pharmaceutical drugs that Australians are most likely to have used for non-medical purposes in their lifetime, past 12 months, past month, and past week are pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids, followed by tranquillisers/sleeping pills.

10% of Australians have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes during their lifetime. 4% have done so during the past 12 months, 2% during the past month, and 0.8% during the past week. 5% of Australians have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes during their lifetime. 2% have done so during the past 12 months, 0.7% during the past month, and 0.3% during the past week. 0.4% of Australians have used methadone/buprenorphine for non-medical purposes during their lifetime. 0.1% have done so during the past 12 months, 0.1%* during the past month, and 0.0%* during the past week. * 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 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.