Treatment

What treatments do people receive?

Many types of treatment are available in Australia to assist people experiencing problematic drug use, aiming to reduce the harm of drug use through services such as counselling or education. Additionally, some treatments use abstinence-oriented interventions to aid in short-term cessation or reduction of heavy and/or prolonged alcohol or other drug use, to assist clients in developing skills to facilitate substance-free lifestyles.

In 2020–21:

  • A total of 242,980 treatment episodes were provided to people for their own or someone else’s alcohol or drug use.
  • Clients received an average of 1.7 treatment episodes nationally.
  • Treatment episodes increased by 58% since 2011–12 (from 153,668) and 2.3% from the previous year (237,545 in 2019–20). ‚Äč

What are the treatment types?

Counselling continues to be the most common treatment provided.

In 2020–21:

  • Counselling continued to be the most common main treatment type, comprising of almost 2 in 5 (38%) of all treatment episodes, followed by Assessment only (20%) and support and case management (15%).
  • Among people who sought support for their own drug or alcohol use, just under 2 in 5 (38%) received counselling as their main treatment and 1 in 5 received an assessment only (21%).
  • Among people who sought support for someone else’s drug use, over 2 in 5 (44%) received counselling as their main treatment and over 3 in 10 (31%) received support and case management (Figure TREATMENTCLIENTS.1).

Figure TREATMENTCLIENTS.1: Closed treatment episodes, by main treatment type, client type and state and territory, 2011–12 to 2020–21

The stacked bar graph shows the closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use by main treatment type, client type and state and territory, from 2011–12 to 2020–21. Counselling has remained the most common treatment type in Australia in this time, with counselling being provided in 83,691 episodes (37.5%) for clients’ own drug use and 8,153 episodes (43.5%) for others’ drug use in 2020–21.

Among clients seeking treatment for their own drug use in Australia in 2020–21, assessment only (46,374 episodes, 20.8%), support and case management (30,687 episodes, 13.7%) and withdrawal management (22,296 episodes, 10.0%) were the next most common treatment types.

Among clients seeking treatment for their other’s drug use in Australia in 2020–21, support and case management (5,854 episodes, 31.2%), assessment only (1,853 episodes, 9.9%) and information and education (853 episodes, 4.5%) were the next most common treatment types.


Treatment delivery setting

2 in 3 treatment episodes were provided in a non-residential treatment setting.

Nationally, in 2020–21:

  • Around 2 in 3 treatment episodes were provided in a non-residential treatment setting (66% of episodes), such as community-based Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and hospital outpatient services.
  • The next most common settings were residential treatment settings (13%), which allow clients to stay in a facility that is not their home or usual place of residence, and outreach settings (such as mobile/outreach alcohol and other drug treatment service providers) or other (both 8.6%) (Figure TREATMENTDELIVERY.1).

Figure TREATMENTDELIVERY.1: Closed treatment episodes, by main treatment type, delivery setting and state and territory, 2011–12 to 2020–21

The horizontal stacked bar graph shows the number of closed treatment episodes by main treatment type, delivery setting and state and territory. Most treatment episodes were delivered in non-residential treatment settings.

In 2020–21, the most common treatments by setting in Australia were: counselling (78,146 episodes, 48.6%) in non-residential settings; withdrawal management (14,313 episodes, 45.1%) was most common in residential settings; assessment only (5,247 episodes, 64.5%) in home settings; counselling (6,338 episodes, 30.5%) in outreach settings; and support and case management (6,720 episodes, 32.5%) in other settings.

 

Length of treatment

Clients whose principal drug of concern was amphetamines spent longer in treatment, with a median duration of 36 days.

In 2020–21, the median treatment duration across all treatment episodes was 4 weeks (28 days). The duration of treatment episodes varied by main treatment type and principal drug of concern:

  • Among all clients, the median duration was 64 days for clients receiving counselling, 43 days for rehabilitation, 29 days for support and case management, 8 days for withdrawal management, and 1 day for assessment only.
  • Among the four most common principal drugs of concern, median treatment duration was longest for amphetamines (36 days), followed by heroin (27 days), alcohol (26 days) and cannabis (20 days).

What are the common reasons for ceasing treatment?

In 2020–21, almost 3 in 5 (59%) of all treatment episodes ended in a planned or expected completion, and 1 in 5 (20%) treatment episodes ended due to an unplanned completion (Figure REASONCESSATION.1).

Figure REASONCESSATION.1: Closed treatment episodes, by reason for cessation and main treatment, 2011–12 to 2020–21 

The stacked bar graph shows closed treatment episodes, by reason for cessation and main treatment, 2011–12 to 2020–21. Expected/planned completion has consistently remained the most common reason for cessation for all treatments in this time, increasing from 100,506 episodes (65.4%) in 2011–12 to 143,674 episodes (59.3%) in 2020–21.

Ending due to unplanned completion has remained the next most common reason for cessation for all treatments, increasing from 31,455 episodes (20.5%) to 48,323 episodes (20.0%).