Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 221. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 13 June 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 April 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2021 Jun. 13]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, viewed 13 June 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
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More information is available in the Meth/amphetamine and other stimulants fact sheet.
Stimulants are a group of drugs that produce stimulatory effects by increasing nerve transmission in the brain and body (Nielsen & Gisev 2017). Included in this group are:
The focus in this section is on the illicit use of meth/amphetamine and other stimulants (Box STIM1).
Data sources on methamphetamine, amphetamine and other psychostimulants contain a variety of terms; in some instances these terms cover similar, but not the same range of drugs. This can be confusing when interpreting results across different data sources.
Below is a description of each term used in these data sources and the types of drugs they encompass:
People who regularly use illicit drugs report that methamphetamine and other stimulants are easy to obtain in Australia.
Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) show that people who inject drugs commonly report it is ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain methamphetamine and other stimulants, specifically:
Similarly, data from the 2020 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) show that most people who use ecstasy and other stimulants report that methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine are ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain (Peacock et al. 2020). Findings show that:
In 2020, the EDRS and IDRS collections took place during the COVID-19 restriction period (April–July for the EDRS, and June–September for the IDRS). Data that relate to the previous 12 months will reflect behaviours both before and during the COVID-19 period. This should be taken into account when comparing data between 2020 and previous years.
In 2018–19, just over a third of national illicit drug seizures (38,250 or 34.0%) were for ATS (including MDMA). The number of national ATS seizures has increased by 263% over the last decade, with 38,250 seizures in 2018–19, up from 10,543 in 2009–10. In 2018–19, ATS accounted for 33% of the total weight of illicit drugs seized nationally. The total weight of ATS seized nationally has increased 1,206% over the last decade, from 671 kilograms in 2009–10 to 8,776.5 kilograms in 2018–19. The 32,021 national amphetamines seizures in 2018–19 weighed 4,418.0 kilograms and accounted for 84% of the number and 50% of the weight of ATS seized nationally this reporting period (ACIC 2020). Recent research (ACIC 2019b) has shown the impact of seizures on consumption—see Supply reduction – Prohibited substances (ACIC 2020; tables S1.21 and S1.22).
In 2018–19, there were 2,022 amphetamine-type stimulant (excluding MDMA) detections at the Australian border, weighing 5,148.4 kilograms. The number of MDMA (ecstasy) detections at the Australian border was 3,777 in 2018–19, while the weight of MDMA detected was 2,124.9 kilograms, the highest weight recorded in the last decade. The number of national MDMA seizures was 6,103 in 2018–19, and the total weight of MDMA seized nationally was 1,560.0 kilograms, accounting for 27% of the number and 18% of the weight of ATS seized nationally this reporting period (ACIC 2020).
Over the last decade, the number of cocaine detections at the Australian border increased by 826%, from 291 in 2009–10 to 2,695 in 2018–19. The weight of cocaine detected has increased by 171%, from 386.8 kilograms in 2009–10 to 1,049.6 kilograms in 2018–19 (ACIC 2020).
The number of national cocaine seizures has increased by 255% over the last decade, from 1,517 in 2009–10 to a record 5,378 in 2018–19. The weight of cocaine seized nationally increased by 315% over the same period, from 394.8 kilograms in 2009–10 to 1,638.5 kilograms in 2018–19 (ACIC 2020).
There are differences in trends and patterns of consumption in Australia according to the type of stimulant used.
Collection of drug use data in the 2020 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) took place during the COVID-19 restriction period between April and July 2020. Data that relate to the previous 6-12 months will reflect behaviours both before and during the COVID-19 period. This should be taken into account when comparing data between 2020 and previous years.
Self-reported data on meth/amphetamine consumption in the general Australian population has been declining since it peaked at 3.4% in 2001. There was a substantial decrease in the recent use of meth/amphetamine among people aged 20–29 (from 11.2% in 2001 to 2.4% in 2019), however, there were slight increases for people aged 40 and over (Table S2.44). It is possible that self-report surveys underestimate the true extent of meth/amphetamine use, particularly in the context of the stigmas that exist around its consumption (AIHW 2020b).
In 2013, ‘crystal/ice’ replaced powder as the main form of meth/amphetamine used in the previous 12 months. In 2019, this trend continued with 50% of people who used meth/amphetamine reporting that crystal/ice was the main form used in the previous 12 months (AIHW 2020b). While overall recent meth/amphetamine use declined between 2013 and 2019, the proportion using crystal/ice remained relatively stable (AIHW 2020b).
Participants in the EDRS reported a decrease in the use of crystal methamphetamine in the preceding 6 months (26% in 2011 to 12% in 2020) (Peacock et al. 2020) (Table S2.49).
Figure STIM1: Recent use of meth/amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy, people aged 14 and over, by age and sex, 2001 to 2019 (per cent)
The figure shows the proportion of people who recently used meth/amphetamine in the last 12 months by age group from 2001 to 2019. Between 2001 and 2019, there were decreases for age groups of 14–19, 20–29, and 14 and over who had recently used meth/amphetamine. Over the same period, the proportion of people aged 30–39, and 50 and over who recently used meth/amphetamine remained stable. In 2019, people aged 20–29 (2.4%) and 30–39 (2.0%) were most likely to have recently used meth/amphetamine.
There was a significant increase in lifetime use of cocaine between 2016 (9%) and 2019 (11.2%) (Table S2.31). This was driven largely by increases for people aged 20–29 (from 13.2% to 19.5%), 40–49 (from 12.0% to 15.3%) and 50 and older (3.4% to 4.3%) (AIHW 2020b).
For participants of the EDRS, cocaine was the third most commonly used stimulant drug (after ecstasy and cannabis) with 68% reporting recent use in 2020, the highest percentage of participants in the study’s history (Peacock et al. 2020).
Recent data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) show that the population-weighted average consumption varies based on drug type and geographic area.
It is important to note that the NWDMP does not measure all drug types and cannabis (the drug found to have the highest self-reported level of recent consumption in the 2019 NDSHS) was not included in the comparison of the highest consumed drugs monitored by the program. For further information, see Box HARM2 and Data quality for the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program.
Data from the 2019 NDSHS showed that:
Figure STIM2: Recent meth/amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy use, by remoteness and socioeconomic area, people aged 14 and over, 2010 to 2019 (per cent)
The figure shows the proportion of recent cocaine use for people aged 14 and over by remoteness area for 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. Recent cocaine use trends differed across all 4 remoteness areas between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, recent cocaine use was more common in Major cities (5%) than in Outer regional and Remote and very remote areas (1.4% and 1.7%, respectively).
Explore state and territory data on the use of methamphetamine and other stimulants in Australia.
The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) recently examined average stimulant consumption (amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA) in Australia compared with 29 countries across Europe, North America, Oceania, and South Africa. In 2019:
When examining each drug type as a proportion of total combined stimulant consumption:
The short and long-term effects associated with the use of methamphetamine and other stimulants are provided in Table STIM1.
Methamphetamine (includes powder, base and crystal/ice)
Source: Adapted from ACIC 2019a; Darke, Kaye & Duflou 2017; NSW Ministry of Health 2017.
Amphetamine use was responsible for 0.6% of the total burden of disease and injuries in Australia in 2015 and 21% of the total burden due to illicit drug use (AIHW 2019b) (Table S2.69).
Of the burden due to amphetamine use, drug use disorder (excluding alcohol) contributed 28%, poisoning 5% and suicide and self-inflicted injuries 4.3%. Other contributors to the burden due to amphetamine use included road traffic injuries—motorcyclists (3.2%) and road traffic injuries—motor vehicle occupants (2.5%) (AIHW 2019b).
Cocaine use contributed 0.3% of the total burden of disease and injuries in 2015 and 11.4% of the total burden due to illicit drug use (Table S2.69). Of the burden due to cocaine use, suicide and self-inflicted injuries accounted for 6.2% and drug use disorder (excluding alcohol) 11% (AIHW 2019b).
According to information drawn from the National Hospital Morbidity Database, 8.6% of all drug-related hospital separations in 2018-19 were reported with a principal drug of methamphetamine. This is a notable increase from 4.5% of all drug-related hospital separations in 2014-15 (Table 1.8b).
The rate of drug-related hospital separations for methamphetamines was higher for people usually residing in Major cities (46.9 per 100,000 population) compared with Regional and remote areas (36.8 per 100,000 population) (Table S1.8c).
Data on alcohol and other drug-related ambulance attendances are sourced from the National Surveillance System for Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse and Overdose report. Data for 2019 are available for New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Data are presented for 4 snapshot months per year, specifically March, June, September and December. Please see the data quality statement for further information.
The rate of meth/amphetamine (including crystal methamphetamine) attendances ranged from 13.1 per 100,000 population in Tasmania to 25.8 per 100,000 population in Victoria.
The majority of meth/amphetamine-related attendances were for males, ranging from 57% of attendances in Tasmania to 69% of attendances in the Australian Capital Territory. The median age for attendances was similar across jurisdictions, ranging from 31 years in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory to 35 years in Tasmania.
Similar rates for meth/amphetamine-related ambulance attendances were reported in regional areas for New South Wales (20.1 per 100,000 population compared with 18.9 for metropolitan areas) and Victoria (25.0 per 100,000 population compared with 26.1 for metropolitan areas). However, in Tasmania the rate for these attendances was higher for Greater Hobart (18.1 per 100,000 population compared with 8.9 for regional areas). Higher proportions of meth/amphetamine-related attendances were transported to hospital in metropolitan than in regional areas for New South Wales (89% and 79%, respectively) while equal proportions of attendances were transported to hospital for Victoria (84% for both metropolitan and regional areas) and Tasmania (~76% for metropolitan and ~77% for regional areas) (Table S2.81) (Moayeri et al. 2020).
The number of drug-induced deaths related to methamphetamine and other stimulants (including amphetamines, methamphetamine, ecstasy/MDMA and caffeine) in Australia has increased at a fast rate, with the death rate in 2019 4 times higher than that in 2000 (2.0 deaths compared with 0.5 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively) (Table S1.1). Over the same period, the rate of drug-induced deaths involving cocaine increased from 0.1 deaths to 0.3 deaths per 100,000 population (Table S1.1).
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) reported that in 2018 there were 99 amphetamine-induced deaths in Australia—a rate of 0.4 per 100,000 people (Man et al. 2019). There were also fewer than 20 cocaine-induced deaths in Australia in 2018—consistent with previous years (Man et al. 2019).
Recent research examining methamphetamine-related deaths in isolation from other stimulants, found that mortality rates have almost doubled during a period of 7-years between 2009 and 2015. The most common manner of methamphetamine-related death was accidental drug toxicity; however, natural disease (e.g. coronary disease, stroke, kidney disease, and liver disease), suicide and accident comprised more than half of the deaths (Darke, Kaye & Duflou 2017).
Data collected for the AODTS NMDS are released twice each year—a key findings report in April and a detailed report in June. Detailed information about closed treatment episodes for stimulants will be updated in June 2021.
Data from the AIHW Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) for amphetamines correspond to the Australian Standard Classification of Drugs of Concern (ASCDC) code for the general ‘amphetamines’ classification, in which methamphetamine is a sub-classification. Specific coding for methamphetamine episodes have not previously been available due to the nature of the coding structure. This has improved over time, due to improved workforce training and new system updates (AIHW 2020a).
The 2018–19 AODTS NMDS showed that amphetamines were the principal drug of concern in 28% of closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use, the second most common principal drug of concern behind alcohol (36%) (Figure STIM3).
Where the principal drug of concern was amphetamines, the proportion of people living in Regional and remote areas who travelled 1 hour or longer to treatment services was higher than in Major cities (31% compared with 10%) (AIHW 2019a).
Figure STIM3: Snapshot of closed treatment episodes for own amphetamine use, 2018–19 (per cent)
The figure shows that amphetamine was a principal drug of concern for clients’ own drug use in 28.0% of closed treatment episodes in 2018–19. The most common main treatment type provided to clients for their own amphetamine use was counselling (41%). Around 1 in 6 clients (17.0%) who sort treatment for their own amphetamine use were Indigenous Australians.
Ecstasy was a principal drug of concern for a client’s own drug use in 0.6% of closed treatment episodes in 2018–19 (Table S2.76).
Cocaine was a principal drug of concern for a client’s own drug use in 0.8% of closed treatment episodes in 2018–19 (Table S2.76).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more than 2 times as likely to report the recent use of meth/amphetamine than non-Indigenous Australians. However, the estimate for Indigenous Australians has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution. See also: Illicit drugs in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People section.
More than half of police detainees and prison entrants recently used methamphetamine. See also: Illicit drugs in the People in contact with the criminal justice system section.
People with a mental health condition were more than 2 times as likely to report recent meth/amphetamine use than people who had not been diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition. See also: Illicit drugs in the People with mental health conditions section.
Methamphetamine is the most commonly injected drug in Australia. See also: Illicit drugs in the People who inject drugs section.
The NDSHS found that between 2016 and 2019, more people associated meth/amphetamine with a drug problem (46% compared with 49%) and thought it caused the most deaths (19.2% compared with 20%)(tables S2.36 and S2.70). Meth/amphetamine was reported to be the drug of most concern to the community by 2 in 5 (40%) people (Table S2.37).
In April 2015, the Australian Government established a National Ice Taskforce, to provide advice on the development of a National Ice Action Strategy (NIAS).
The objectives of the NIAS are to ensure that:
ACIC (Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission) 2019. Methylamphetamine supply reduction—measures of effectiveness. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 14 October 2019.
ACIC 2020. Illicit Drug Data Report 2018–19. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 20 October 2020.
ACIC 2021. National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report 12. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 1 March 2021.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019a. Alcohol and other drug use in regional and remote Australia: consumption, harms and access to treatment, 2016–17. Cat. no. HSE 212. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 15 March 2019.
AIHW 2019b. Australian burden of disease study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Series no.19. BOD 22. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 13 June 2019.
AIHW 2019c. The health of Australia’s prisoners 2018. Cat. no. PHE 246. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 May 2018.
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AIHW 2020b. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Drug statistics series no. 32. Cat. no. PHE 270. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 16 July 2020.
AIHW 2021. Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2019–20: Key findings. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 14 April 2021.
Darke S, Kaye S & Duflou J 2017. Rates, characteristics and circumstances of methamphetamine-related death in Australia: a national 7-year study. Addiction 112: 2191-2201.
DoH (Department of Health) 2017. National ice action strategy. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 29 November 2017.
Man N, Chrzanowska A, Dobbins T, Degenhardt L & Peacock A 2019. Trends in drug-induced deaths in Australia, 1997-2018. Drug Trends Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney. Viewed 8 January 2020.
Moayeri F, Ogeil R, Faulkner A, Wilson J, Matthews S, Lubman D, Scott D. National Surveillance System for Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse and Overdose. Melbourne: Turning Point, Melbourne.
Nielsen S & Gisev N 2017. Drug pharmacology and pharmacotherapy treatments. In Ritter, King and Lee (eds). Drug use in Australian society. 2nd edn. Oxford University Press.
NSW Ministry of Health 2017. A quick guide to drugs & alcohol, 3rd edn. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre UNSW.
Peacock A, Uporova J, Karlsson A, Gibbs D, Swanton R, Kelly G et al. 2019. Australian Drug Trends 2019: Key findings from the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Interviews. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre UNSW.
Peacock A, Uporova J, Karlsson A, Price O, Gibbs D, Swanton R et al. 2021. Australian Drug Trends 2020: Key findings from the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) interviews. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.
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