Economic impacts

The use of alcohol and other drugs has a number of economic impacts relating to household expenditure, decreased productivity and healthcare and law enforcement costs. 

The most comprehensive data from 2004–05 showed that alcohol and other drug use was estimated to cost Australian society $55.2 billion (Figure IMPACT7). This includes costs to the health and hospitals system, alcohol and other drug attributable crime costs, lost workplace productivity and road accidents (Collins and Lapsley 2008).

The separate costs of alcohol and methamphetamine use in Australia have also been estimated in more recent years.

The estimated social cost attributable to methamphetamine use in 2013-14 was just over $5 billion dollars. This included costs associated with a range of domains including: prevention, harm reduction and treatment; health care; premature mortality; crime; child maltreatment and protection; workplace accidents and productivity (Whetton et al. 2016).

The social costs of alcohol misuse in Australia in 2010 was estimated to be $14.35 billion. The highest costs were associated with productivity losses (42.1%), traffic accidents (25.5%) and cost to the criminal justice system (20.6%) (Manning, Smith & Mazerolle 2013).

Household expenditure

Data from the ABS indicates that the proportion of household costs spent on alcohol and tobacco use has decreased over time.

  • The proportion of household income spent on alcohol in 2015–16 was 2.2%, down from 3.4% in 1984.
  • The proportion of household income spent on tobacco products has also decreased in 2015–16 to 0.9%, down from 1.6% in 1984.
  • The proportion of household costs spent on alcohol and tobacco varied by main source of income and housing tenure type.
    • Households with the main income source as employee income spent a higher proportion on alcoholic beverages (2.3%) compared to those households with a main source of income as government pensions and allowances (1.8%).
    • However, households where the main source of income was government pensions and allowances the proportion of household income spent on tobacco was higher (1.7%) compared to those households with the main source income from employee income (0.8%) (Manning, Smith & Mazerolle 2013) (Table S1.26).

Decreased productivity

In 2016, almost 2 in 5 (38%) employed people reported missing at least 1 day of work in the previous 3 months due to illness or injury (regardless of drug use) (Table S1.27). Overall, 1.9% of recent illicit drug users missed 1 day of work in the last 3 months due to their drug use, with recent meth/amphetamines users (7.8%) and ecstasy users (6.2%) more likely to report that they had missed work than cannabis and pain-killer/opiate users.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2017. Household expenditure survey, Australia: summary of results, 2015-16. ABS cat. no. 6530.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 4 January 2018.

Collins DJ & Lapsley HM 2008. The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05. National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 64.

Manning M, Smith C & Mazerolle P. 2013. The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice No. 454. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Viewed 4 April 2018.

Whetton S, Shanahan M, Cartwright K, Duraisingam V, Ferrante A, Gray D, Kaye S, Kostadinov V, McKetin R, Pidd K, Roche A, Tait R, Allsop S 2016. The social costs of methamphetamine in Australia 2013/14. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia.