Many types of treatment are available in Australia to assist people with problematic drug use. Most aim to reduce the harm of drug use, for example counselling, information and education, and diversion programs, while some use a structured drug-free setting with abstinence-oriented interventions to help prevent relapse and develop skills and attitudes that assist clients to make changes leading to drug-free lifestyles.
In 2016–17, 200,751 closed treatment episodes were provided to clients. The number of closed treatment episodes has increased by 30% over the last 10 years, up from 153,998 in 2007–08. In the last year there has been a slight decrease in the number of reported treatment episodes, down from 206,635 in 2015–16. This decrease is largely due to transition issues arising from the introduction of new systems in some states.
Counselling continues to be the most common main treatment type provided to clients, comprising 2 in 5 (40%) closed treatment episodes for all clients.
Assessment only was the second most common main treatment type (16%), followed by support and case management only (14%) and withdrawal management (12%).
The proportion of episodes for the four most common main treatment types has changed over the last 10 years. Support and case management only has increased (from 8% to 14% of closed treatment episodes) while withdrawal management has decreased (from 17% to 12% of closed treatment episodes). Counselling and assessment only have slightly increased (from 37% to 40% of closed treatment episodes and from 14% to 16% of closed treatment episodes, respectively) although these proportions have fluctuated over the 10 years.
Treatment delivery setting
Non-residential treatment facilities, such as hospitals outpatient services and community health centres, were the most common delivery setting for most clients receiving treatment for heroin (76%), cannabis (71%), amphetamines (69%) or alcohol (68%) as their principal drug of concern.
Residential treatment facilities, where clients reside in a facility that is not their home or usual place of residence, were the second most common treatment setting for clients with amphetamines, heroin or alcohol (all 16%) as their principal drug of concern.
Outreach settings, that is, any outreach environment where AOD specialist treatment is provided that is not a client’s home or usual place of residence and is not covered by non-residential and residential treatment facilities, were the second most common for clients receiving treatment for cannabis as their principal drug of concern; outreach settings were the second most common delivery setting (for 17% of clients).
Length of treatment
In 2016–17, for those clients seeking treatment for their own drug use the median duration of closed treatment episodes was just under 3 weeks (19 days). Almost 4 in 5 (80%) closed treatment episodes ended within 6 months.
The duration of closed treatment episodes varied by main treatment type. The median duration of closed treatment episodes was 54 days for clients receiving counselling, 21 days for clients receiving support and case management only, 8 days for clients receiving withdrawal management, and 1 day for clients who were provided with an assessment only.
Treatment duration also varied by principal drug of concern. The median duration of closed treatment episodes was 29 days for clients receiving treatment for heroin and for clients receiving treatment for amphetamines, 28 days for clients receiving treatment for alcohol, and 12 days for clients receiving treatment for cannabis. The median duration of heroin treatment episodes decreased substantially in 2016-17 in comparison with the previous year (29 days in 2016–17, compared with 39 days in 2015–16).
Over the 5 years to 2016–17, clients receiving treatment for heroin as their principal drug of concern tended to have longer treatment episodes compared with those clients receiving treatment for alcohol, amphetamines or cannabis.