Where do Australians obtain pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes?

Australians who used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months most commonly obtained them from a shop/retail outlet. Australians who used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months most commonly obtained them from a prescription.

Among Australians who have used pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, 52% usually obtain them from a shop/retail outlet; 9% from a friend; 11% from a relative/partner, 2%* from a dealer, 3%* from doctor shopping/forged scripts, 18% from a prescription, and 4% from other sources. Among Australians who have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months, 25% usually obtain them from a friend, 17% from a relative/partner, 5%* from a dealer; 5%* from doctor shopping/forged scripts, 36% from a prescription, and 12% from other sources. * 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).

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)) and tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium).

* 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.