More health problems for drug users than non-users

Drug users report generally poorer health than non-users according to a new publication released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The publication, 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed Findings, supplements data presented in the First Results report released in April 2005.

It provides more detailed information on drug-use prevalence, drug-related behaviours, and drugs and health. It also features analyses reflecting the extension of the coverage down to 12 year olds for the first time in the 2004 survey.

Institute report author Mr David Batts, said that among other findings, the survey results provide new data on drug use and health.

'Heart disease, mental illness and asthma topped the list of self-reported health problems among respondents aged 14 years and older.

'Most strikingly, one in two Australians who had used heroin in the last month (50.3%) were diagnosed or treated for mental illness in the last 12 months compared with only one in eleven (9.1%) of those who had not used heroin in the last 12 months,' Mr Batts said.

Information on drug- and alcohol-related abuse was also collected.

Data showed that three in ten Australians (28.8%) reported having been verbally or physically abused or put in fear by someone affected by alcohol in the last 12 months, and that one in eight (12.9%) reported having been abused, either verbally or physically, or having been put in fear by someone affected by illicit drugs.

In 2004, one in fourteen young Australians aged 12-15 years (7.2%) reported having used an illicit drug, with marijuana/cannabis use accounting for most of this (5.2%).

'Still, two in three (64.8%) had never had a full glass of alcohol and almost all (95.7%) had never smoked a cigarette,' Mr Batts said.

The report showed that men and women held similar opinions on which drugs they considered most associated with a 'drug problem.'

Heroin was the drug most people linked with 'a drug problem' (39.7% of men and 39.1% of women), followed by marijuana/cannabis, with 29.3% of men and 29.1% of women associating it with a drug problem.

Alcohol was perceived to be a problem by 10.2% of men and 9.8% of women surveyed.

Respondents who had used heroin in their lifetime were more likely than those who had not, to support policies aimed at reducing heroin-related problems.

Recent users of alcohol, marijuana/cannabis, meth/amphetamines (speed), and heroin or cocaine, were also more likely to favour drug-awareness education than were those who had never used that drug.

22 November 2005

Further information: David Batts, AIHW, tel. 02 6289 8515 or 0417 140 098

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