Drugs of concern
People may seek AOD treatment services when experiencing problematic use with one or more drugs. Most people have one drug that is of greater concern for them, and their treatment will typically focus on this drug; this is referred to as the principal drug of concern. Clients who use more than one drug can also report additional drugs of concern.
The most common principal drug of concern that led people to seek treatment was alcohol.
For people who received treatment for their own alcohol or drug use in 2021–22:
- Over 2 in 5 (42%) treatment episodes were for alcohol, followed by amphetamines (24%), cannabis (19%) and heroin (4.5%). This pattern was similar for both males and females, and Indigenous Australians (Figure AODTS PDOC.1).
- Where amphetamines (49,694 episodes) was reported as a principal drug of concern in 2021–22, 4 in 5 (80%) treatment episodes were for methamphetamines.
There was variation across age groups in the most common principal drugs of concern:
- Alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern for older clients. Alcohol was the principal drug of concern for 49% of those aged 40–49; 64% of those aged 50–59; and 77% of people aged 60 and over.
- Cannabis was the most common principal drug of concern treated in young people, with 3 in 5 people aged 10–19 (61% of treatment episodes) receiving treatment for cannabis.
- Amphetamines was the most common principal drug of concern for 1 in 3 people aged 30–39 (33%) and 1 in 4 aged 20–29 (25%).
Figure AODTS PDOC.1: Closed treatment episodes for client’s own drug use, by principal drug of concern and state and territory, 2012–13 to 2021–22
The stacked bar graph shows the closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use by principal drug of concern and state and territory, from 2012–13 to 2021–22. Between 2012–13 and 2021–22, the number of treatment episodes increased from 155,151 episodes in 2012–13 to 209,953 episodes in 2021–22.
The four most common drugs of concern have remained consistent through this period. In 2021–22, 87,334 (41.6%) of closed treatment episodes had alcohol as the principal drug of concern (slightly increasing from 63,755; 41.1% in 2012–13); 49,694 (23.7%) of episodes had amphetamines (more than doubling from 22,265; 14.4% in 2012–13); 40,210 (19.2%) of episodes had cannabis (increasing from 36,560; 23.6% in 2012–13); and 9,396 (4.5%) had heroin (falling from 12,817; 8.3% in 2012–13).
Methamphetamines as a principal drug of concern (coded within amphetamines) has been relatively stable at around 4 in 5 treatment episodes in this amphetamines group over the past 3 years; 2019–20 (78% or 47,599 episodes), 2020–21 (79% or 42,659 episodes), and 2021–22 (80% or 39,912 episodes) (Figure AODTS PDOC.2).
Over the last 10 years, treatment episodes for amphetamines and amphetamines not further defined decreased as coding practices improved in reporting treatment for methamphetamines. The rise in reported episodes for methamphetamines can be attributed to a range of factors including improvements in agency coding, treatment system updates and increases in funded treatment services.
Figure AODTS PDOC.2: Closed treatment episodes for client’s own drug use for Amphetamines, by (ASCDC) codes, 2012–13 to 2021–22
The line graph shows that, among closed treatment episodes for client’s own drug use for amphetamines, methamphetamines have been the most common drug of concern since 2012–13. In 2021–22, there were 39,912 (80.3%) episodes with methamphetamines as a principal drug of concern, a large increase from 4,050 (18.2%) episodes in 2012-13.
The number and proportion of episodes with amphetamines not further defined has fallen from 15,210 episodes (68.3%) in 2012–13 to 7,685 episodes (15.5%) in 2021–22.
The number and proportion of episodes with amphetamine has fluctuated, peaking in 2013–14 (6,579 episodes or 22.7%) and falling to 1,345 episodes (2.7%) in 2021–22.
The number and proportion of episodes with other amphetamines has increased from 177 episodes in 2012–13 (0.8%) to 752 episodes in 2021–22 (1.5%).