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Increasing numbers of Australians are using drug treatment services for alcohol use, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2009-10: report on the National Minimum Data Set, shows that alcohol was the principal drug of concern reported in almost half (48%) of the 147,000 community-based drug treatment episodes provided across Australia in 2009–10.

‘This is the highest proportion of treatment episodes for alcohol use since the data collection began in 2001–02,’ said AIHW spokesperson Brent Diverty.

Over two-thirds (69%) of all treatment episodes for alcohol were for males. There were more males than females receiving treatment for all principal drugs of concern except benzodiazepines.

‘Alcohol was the most frequently reported principal drug of concern for all age groups, except for 10–19 year olds, where cannabis was more common,’ Mr Diverty said.

The proportion of episodes where alcohol was the principal drug of concern increased with age, ranging from almost two in five for 20–29-year-olds to more than four in five clients aged over 60.

The report also shows around one in four treatment episodes nominated cannabis as the principal drug of concern, and one in 10 named heroin.

In half (53%) of all treatment episodes, more than one drug was reported. When all drugs of concern are considered, alcohol was reported in 64% of episodes. While few people nominated nicotine as their principal drug of concern, it was often named as a secondary drug of concern.

Overall, counselling was the most common treatment type (42% of episodes), followed by withdrawal management (detoxification; 15%).

‘Indigenous Australians were over-represented in drug and alcohol treatment episodes, with one in eight episodes being for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders,’ Mr Diverty said.

The latest update of AIHW’s compendium of drugs statistics was also released today. Drugs in Australia 2010 brings together the most recent national information about use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, treatment services, drug-related health issues, and drugs in the context of crime and law enforcement.  Of note from this report, in addition to the 147,000 community-based drug treatment episodes there were 104,614 hospital stays reported with a drug-related principal diagnosis in 2009–10, and more than half (58%) of these involved alcohol use.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 11 November 2011

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2009-10: report on the National Minimum Data Set