Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment services across Australia provide a broad range of treatment services and support to people using drugs, and to their families and friends. This report presents information for 2016–17 about publicly funded AOD treatment service agencies, the people they treat, and the treatment provided.

1 in 170 people in Australia received treatment

Around 127,000 clients received treatment in 2016–17, a 7% rise since 2013–14 (119,000) when client data was first reported but a fall of 5% from the number recorded in 2015–16 (134,000). The number of clients in 2016–17 (127,000) equates to a rate of 600 clients per 100,000 people, or about 1 in every 170 Australians. About two-thirds of clients were male (66%), and just over half were aged 20–39 (55%).

Despite comprising only 2.7% of the population (aged 10 and over), 1 in 7 (15%) clients were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Indigenous Australians are more than 6 times more likely to receive AOD treatment than non-Indigenous Australians; 3,313 clients per 100,000 Indigenous Australians (aged 10 and over) received AOD treatment in 2016–17, compared with 507 clients per 100,000 non-Indigenous Australians.

Treatment agencies provided about 200,000 treatment episodes in 2016–17 (an average of 1.6 episodes per client) and 4 in 5 (80%) episodes ended within 3 months. Of those clients who received treatment in 2016–17, 4% also received treatment in 2014–15 and 2015–16.

Treatment episodes for amphetamines rose by 123% over 5 years

Alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin have remained the most common principal drugs of concern for clients since 2007–08. Nationally, alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern in 2016–17, accounting for 32% of episodes.

Over the 5-year period from 2012–13 to 2016–17, as a proportion of all treatment episodes, treatment for amphetamines almost doubled from 14% of episodes in 2012–13 to 26% in 2016–17, while the proportion of episodes where alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern decreased from 41% to 32%.

Looking at each of these drugs individually over the same period: the number of treatment episodes where amphetamines was the principal drug of concern increased by 123% (from 22,265 to 49,670 episodes); the number of cannabis treatment episodes increased by 15% (from 36,560 to 41,921 episodes); the number of heroin treatment episodes fell by 22% (from 12,817 to 9,988 episodes) and the number of alcohol treatment episodes fell by 2% (from 63,755 to 62,438 episodes).

The number of episodes for clients injecting and smoking or inhaling amphetamines has also increased, with more than twice as many clients smoking, injecting or inhaling in 2016–17 as in 2012–13 (Table SE.26). A client’s usual method of administering their principal drug of concern can provide an indication of the form of drug that a client used, particularly for amphetamines. For example, those smoking (clients who report either smoking or inhaling amphetamines) will be using the crystal form, and those ingesting or snorting are most likely to be using the powder form.

For clients aged 30 and over, alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern, while for clients aged 10–29, cannabis was the most common.