Alcohol, cannabis, heroin, amphetamines top drug treatment list

Alcohol and cannabis account for more than half of the drug treatment episodes provided in Australia, followed by heroin and amphetamines, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2003-04, profiles 137,000 closed (completed) treatment episodes across 622 government-funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies*.

It shows that alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern in 38% of these treatment episodes, with cannabis accounting for 22%, heroin 18% and amphetamines 11%.

It appears many clients are seeking treatment for multiple drug problems, because over half of all treatment episodes involved at least one other drug of concern, in addition to the principal drug.

AIHW report co-author Chrysanthe Psychogios said that although the overall results were very clear, there were also important differences between the various age groups.

'It seems that there are "ages and stages" when it comes to seeking drug treatment services. Cannabis and heroin are the drugs the under-30s are presenting to treatment services for, while in the over 30s, alcohol becomes the predominant drug of concern.'

'For example, among 10-19 year olds, cannabis was principal drug of concern in 49% of treatment episodes, while in the 20-29 age group cannabis at 27% was closely followed by heroin at 26%.

Alcohol was the most commonly reported principal drug of concern amongst 30-39 year olds (40%), rising to 82% for those aged 60 years and older.'

'In relation to amphetamines, the topic of our special chapter in the report, nearly half of amphetamine users who sought treatment-male and female-were aged 20-29. The 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey also showed that this age group were most likely to have ever used amphetamines (21.1%).'

'Among clients seeking treatment for amphetamines, injection was found to be the most common method of drug use at 79%'.

Men were more than twice as likely to receive treatment for amphetamine use as women were.

Ms Psychogios said that counselling and withdrawal management (detoxification) were the most common types of treatment overall, with counselling accounting for the highest proportion of closed treatment episodes for most principal drugs of concern. Counselling was most common amongst female clients, and clients in the older age groups.

Forty percent of all alcohol and other drug treatment episodes involved clients who were self-referred, followed by referrals from other alcohol and drug treatment organisations.

*Agencies whose sole activity is to prescribe and/or dose methadone or other opioid maintenance therapies are excluded from the national data set.

18 August 2005

Further information: Chrysanthe Psychogios, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1068 or 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.