More Australians seeking drug treatment—amphetamine treatment more than doubles

More Australians are undergoing treatment for drug use, with a rising number seeking help due to amphetamines, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2015–16, shows that about 134,000 Australians received drug treatment in 2015–16, equating to around 1 in 180 people.

'Nationally, alcohol remained the most common drug people sought treatment for, although a growing proportion of clients sought help due to amphetamine use,' said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

About 32% of all drug treatment episodes were due to alcohol in 2015–16, down from 46% in 2011–12.

Over the same 5-year period, the proportion due to amphetamines more than doubled—from 11% to 23%—while the proportion due to cannabis remained relatively unchanged, from 22% to 23%.

'The actual number of treatment episodes for amphetamines rose from around 16,900 in 2011–12 to 46,400 in 2015–16—a 175% increase,' Mr James said.

The number of treatment episodes for cannabis also rose, up by 40%. Meanwhile, heroin and alcohol treatment episodes fell—by 15% and 6%, respectively.

'Across most states and territories, alcohol was also the most common drug for which people sought treatment, but in South Australia and Western Australia, it was amphetamines, and in Queensland, it was cannabis,' Mr James said.

Counselling continues to be the most common treatment type provided to clients.

'Most clients completed their treatment in just under 3 weeks, though this varied depending on the type of drug—from 13 days for cannabis to 39 days for heroin,' Mr James said.

The report shows that males continue to be more likely to seek treatment than females, and that Indigenous Australians remain overrepresented among treatment clients. Despite making up less than 3% of the Australian population (aged 10 years and over), 14% of clients were Indigenous.

Overall, more than a quarter (28%) of clients were aged 20 to 29, but this is down from about one-third (32%) 10 years earlier.

'The reverse was seen for clients aged 40 and over, with the proportion rising from around a quarter (27%) to about one-third (32%) over the same period,' Mr James said.

An AIHW report from earlier this month revealed that illicit drug use is increasing among older age groups. 


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