Clients

Who uses alcohol and other drug treatment services?

More than 138,000 people received publicly funded treatment or support for alcohol and other drug use.

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment agencies across Australia provide a range of services and support to people receiving treatment for their own drug use, as well as for their families and friends.


Profile of clients

In 2020–21, among people receiving alcohol and other drug treatment:

  • Publicly funded AOD treatment services provided treatment to 138,726 clients across Australia.
  • Over 3 in 5 people (62%) who received treatment or support for alcohol or drug use were male.
  • Of the 93% of clients receiving treatment for their own alcohol or drug use, almost 2 in 3 people (64%) were male.
  • Of the remaining 7.4% of clients who sought support for someone else’s drug use, nearly half were aged 30–49 (46%) and over 2 in 5 clients were female (46%).
  • Less than half a per cent (0.1%) of all clients reported a sex of ‘Other’, which includes people who reported sex as indeterminate, intersex or non-binary. The 2018–19 collection included ‘Other’ as a value for the client’s sex for the first time (Figure AODTS CLIENTS.1).

Note that data may have been impacted by continued COVID–19 restrictions in some states and territories which included changes to modes of treatment delivery. See How has COVID-19 impacted on alcohol and other drug treatment services? for further information.

 

From 2013–14 to 2020–21:

  • The estimated number of people receiving treatment or support for alcohol or other drugs aged 10 and over rose by 21%, from 114, 436 to 138,726.
  • The proportion of male clients who received treatment for their own drug use fell from 69% to 64%, while the proportion of male clients who received support for someone else’s drug use has remained stable (36% in 2013–14 and 37% in 2020–21). Overall, the proportion of male clients receiving treatment decreased over this period (67% to 62%), while the proportion of female clients increased (33% to 36%) and 'Not stated' for sex increased from 0.1% to 1.7%.
  • The proportion of clients aged 10–19 who received support for someone else’s drug use fell from 14% to 8.2%; in contrast, clients aged 20–39 increased from 12% to 19% over the same period.

Figure AODTS CLIENTS.1: Client demographics (age group, sex, Indigenous status), by state and territory, 2013–14 to 2020–21

The line graph shows proportions of clients receiving treatment from alcohol and drug treatment services by age group and client type. Nationally, the distribution of clients by age group has remained consistent from 2013–14 to 2020–21. In 2020–21, 11.2% of clients receiving treatment for their own drug use were aged 10-19, 26.0% were aged 20-29, 27.1% were aged 30-39, 20.5% were aged 40-49, 10.5% were aged 50-59 and 4.7% were aged over 60.

The first horizontal stacked bar graph shows proportions of clients receiving treatment from alcohol and drug treatment services by sex and client type. In 2020–21, 63.7% of clients receiving treatment for their own drug use were male, 35.6% were female and 0.6% were another sex or not stated. Among clients receiving treatment for other’s drug use, 37.2% were male, 46.0% were female and 16.9% were another sex or not stated. Among all clients, 61.8% of clients were male, 36.4% of clients were female and 1.8% were another sex or not stated.

The second horizontal stacked bar graph shows proportions of clients receiving treatment from alcohol and drug treatment services by Indigenous status and client type. In 2020–21, 17.6% of clients receiving treatment for their own drug use were Indigenous, 78.1% were non-Indigenous and 4.3% were not stated. Among clients receiving treatment for other’s drug use, 8.4% were Indigenous, 72.2% were non-Indigenous and 19.4% were not stated. Among all clients, 16.9% of clients were Indigenous, 77.7% of clients were non-Indigenous and 5.4% were not stated.

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Indigenous Australians

In 2020–21, Indigenous Australians accounted for 17% (23,420) of people aged 10 and over receiving treatment or support for their own or someone else’s alcohol or other drug use (Figure AODTS CLIENTS.1):

  • Most Indigenous Australian clients (22,559) received treatment for their own alcohol or drug use.
  • A further 861 people received treatment for someone else’s alcohol or drug use.
  • The proportion of Indigenous Australians receiving treatment for their own drug use has increased from 14% in 2013–14 to 18% in 2020–21.

In 2020–21, 70% of all clients in the Northern Territory identified as Indigenous Australians, higher than the national proportion (17%). In other states and territories, the proportion of clients who identified as Indigenous Australians ranged from 8.8% in Victoria to 22% in Western Australia (Figure AODTS CLIENTS.1).

The Australian Government funds primary healthcare services and substance use services specifically for Indigenous Australians. These services previously reported via the Australian Government-funded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander substance use services, via the Online Services Report (OSR) data collection. The substance use services program was transferred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and then to the National Indigenous Australian Agency. Since the cessation of the OSR data collection, the number of substance use services for Indigenous Australians in-scope and reporting to the AODTS NMDS has gradually increased.


People from culturally and linguistically diverse populations

In 2020–21, most treatment episodes involved people who were born in Australia (86%), with the United Kingdom (2.4%) and New Zealand (2.3%) being the most common countries of birth for people born outside Australia. These proportions are generally consistent with place of birth for the Australian population (ABS 2021). In 96% of treatment episodes, clients listed English as their preferred language.


Client trends

The number of people aged 10 and over receiving alcohol and other drug treatment rose by 21% from 2013–14 to 2020–21.

Over the past 8 years, the number of people treated by publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies increased by 21% between 2013–14 (114, 436) and 2020–21 (138,726) (Figure AODTS CLIENTS.2).

For people who received AOD treatment:

  • The number of clients in treatment represents 564 per 100,000 people in 2013–14, rising to 616 per 100,000 people in 2020–21 (Figure AODTSCLIENTS.2).
  • Client numbers in NSW increased by 32% between 2013–14 and 2020–21. A similar increase was seen for clients in Victoria, which increased by 25% between 2013–14 and 2020–21. These increases are due to state system changes improving data extract processes, data quality and options for flexible AOD treatment delivery.

Figure AODTS CLIENTS.2: Client rates per 100,000, by state and territory, 2013–14 to 2020–21

The line chart shows client rates per 100,000 population by state and territory and client type.

Client rates for alcohol and/or drug use in Australia fluctuated from 564 clients per 100,000 population in 2013–14 to 616 clients per 100,000 population in 2020–21. Rates in each state in 2020­–21 were: 453 clients per 100,000 population in New South Wales; 634 clients per 100,000 population in Victoria; 793 clients per 100,000 population in Queensland; 716 clients per 100,000 population in Western Australia; 469 clients per 100,000 population in South Australia; 580 clients per 100,000 population in Tasmania; 966 clients per 100,000 population in the Australian Capital Territory; and 1,764 clients per 100,000 population in the Northern Territory.

Visualisation not available for printing

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Migration, Australia, 2019–20. ABS cat. No. 3412.0. Canberra: ABS.