Treatment provided

There are a number of treatment types available to assist people experiencing problematic drug use, most of which aim to reduce the harm of drug use through services such as counselling or information and 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 in a safe, structured and supportive environment, to assist clients in developing skills to facilitate substance-free lifestyles.

Key findings

In 2019–20:

  • around 237,500 closed treatment episodes were provided to 139,300 clients
  • 92% (218,100) of all closed treatment episodes were provided to clients seeking treatment for their own drug use while a further 8% (19,400) were provided to clients seeking treatment for someone else’s alcohol or drug use
  • counselling was the most common treatment type provided to all clients in 2019–20 (37% of all treatment episodes), followed by assessment only (19%) and support and case management (16%).
  • for someone else’s alcohol or drug use the most common treatment type was counselling (43% of treatment episodes), followed by support and case management (33%) and assessment only (11%).

Over the 10-year period to 2019–20:

  • the proportion of episodes with a main treatment type of support and case management increased from 9% in 2010–11 to 16% in 2019–20
  • the proportion of episodes with withdrawal management as the main treatment type fell from 17% to 9% of episodes, and counselling declined from 41% to 37%.

Treatment types

Clients can receive treatment for their own or someone else’s alcohol or drug use (see Key terminology and glossary). Rehabilitation, withdrawal management (detoxification) and pharmacotherapy are not available for clients seeking treatment for someone else’s alcohol or drug use.

Client own drug or alcohol use and clients seeking support for someone else’s alcohol or drug use

In 2019–20:

  • over 9 in 10 closed treatment episodes (92% or 218,139) were provided for a client’s own alcohol or drug use, and 8% (19,406) of treatment episodes were in relation to someone else’s alcohol or drug use (Table ST.1)

  • around 131,076 clients received treatment for their own alcohol or drug use and 13,884 clients received treatment in relation to someone else’s alcohol or drug use (Tables SCR.27)

  • among clients seeking treatment for their own alcohol or drug use:

    • counselling was the most common main treatment type followed by assessment only across all age groups
    • 1 in 5 clients (20%) aged 10–19 received information and education as a main treatment type while older clients aged 40–49 (10%), 50–59 (13%) and 60+ (17%) were more likely to receive withdrawal management as a main treatment type.
  • among clients seeking support for someone else’s alcohol or drug use, the age of clients varied by main treatment type:
    • Over half of clients aged 40–49 and over 3 in 5 clients aged 50–59 and 60+ received counselling for someone else’s alcohol or drug use.
    • Over one third of clients aged 10–19 (34%) and 20–29 (35%) received support and case management for someone else’s alcohol or drug use (Figure TREATMENTCLIENTS1).

Figure TREATMENTCLIENTS1: Clients by client type, main treatment type and age group (years), 2019–20 (%) 

The stacked vertical bar graph shows the proportion of main treatment types by age group in 2019–20 for own drug use. Counselling was the most common main treatment type within all age groups, ranging from 37% to 43%. The proportion of withdrawal management episodes increased with age, from 3.1% of clients aged 10–19 years to 17% of clients aged 60+ years.

For treatment episodes provided for a client’s own alcohol or drug use over the 10-year period to 2019–20:

  • the proportion of episodes with counselling as the main treatment type decreased from 40% in 2010–11 to 35% in 2015–16, but then rose to 37% in 2019–20
  • the proportion of main treatment episodes with withdrawal management treatment declined from 18% in 2010–11 to 10% in 2019–20.

For treatment episodes provided for those seeking support for someone else’s alcohol or drug use:

  • the proportion of counselling as the main treatment type decreased over 10 years; from 75% in 2010–11, peaking at 79% in 2011–12, decreasing further to 52% in 2018–19 and to 43% in 2019–20
  • support and case management as a main treatment type, more than doubled, rising from 13% in 2010–11 to 34% in 2019–20 (Figure TREATMENTCLIENTS2).

Figure TREATMENTCLIENTS2: Number of closed treatment episodes, by client type and main treatment type, 2010–11 to 2019–20 

The line graph shows the main treatment types for all clients from 2010–11 to 2019–20. Counselling consistently remained the most common main treatment type, fluctuating from 36% in 2015-16 to 40% in 2016–17 and 37% in 2019–20. Assessment only has been the second most common main treatment type since 2012–13, remaninf around 16% before increasing from 16% in 2017–18 to 19% in 2019–20.

Figure TREATMENTTYPES1: Summary treatment characteristics (main and additional) of closed episodes, 2019–20

Source: Table ST.1.

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