Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016—key findings , AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 29 November 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016—key findings . Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2016-key-findings
National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016—key findings . Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 01 June 2017, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2016-key-findings
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016—key findings [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017 [cited 2022 Nov. 29]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2016-key-findings
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017, National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016—key findings , viewed 29 November 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2016-key-findings
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Illicit use of drugs, also referred to here as 'illicit drug use', includes use of illegal drugs, non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs (an illicit behaviour), and inappropriate use of other substances (such as inhalants).
In 2016, about 8.5 million (or 43%) people in Australia aged 14 or older had used an illicit drug in their lifetime (including misuse of pharmaceuticals) (Table 24). Around 3.1 million (or 15.6%) had illicitly used in the last 12 months and 2.5 million (12.6%) had used an illegal drug not including pharmaceuticals (Table 25).
Although the proportion using any illicit drug did not significantly increase from 2013 to 2016, there has been a gradual increase in use since 2007 (from 13.4% to 15.6%) and the number of people illicitly using drugs has increased from about 2.3 million to 3.1 million.
Significant declines were seen in the recent use of meth/amphetamines (from 2.1% to 1.4%), hallucinogens (1.3% to 1.0%), and synthetic cannabinoids (1.2% to 0.3%) from 2013 to 2016 (Figure 11 and Table 24). Use of other drugs surveyed remained relatively stable between 2013 and 2016 but use of some drugs has been gradually increasing over the longer term.
Recent cocaine use has been increasing since 2004 (Table 25). Although the increase between 2013 and 2016 was not significant (from 2.1% to 2.5%); it was however significantly higher than the proportion reported in 2004 (1.0%). Cocaine is now the second most commonly used illegal drug in the last 12 months after cannabis.
a. Used in the last 12 months.
Source: National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 preliminary findings (Data tables).
Overall, there was no significant change in use of any illicit drug but changes were evident among certain age groups.
Note: Apart from cannabis, recent use of illegal drugs was low among people aged 50 or older (<0.4% had used ecstasy, meth/amphetamines or cocaine in the previous 12 months).
Source: NDSHS 2016 preliminary findings (Data tables).
The average age at which people first tried any illicit drug increased, from 19.3 years in 2013 to 19.7 years in 2016 (Table 27). Between 2013 and 2016, older average ages of first use were reported for cannabis (from 18.5 to 18.7 years), meth/amphetamines (from 21.6 to 22.1 years) and hallucinogens (from 20.0 to 20.4 years).
Crystal (or ice) meth/amphetamines continued to be the preferred form of meth/amphetamines used in 2016. Just over 6 in 10 (62%) recent users had used crystal/ice in the previous 12 months and 57% of recent users said that this was their main form of meth/amphetamines used in the previous 12 months (slight but non-significant increase from 50% in 2013) (Table 32). Powder as the main form of meth/amphetamines used continued to decline (significant decrease from 29% in 2013 to 20% in 2016).
It is possible to estimate the proportion of the total population using crystal/ice between 2007 and 2016 by examining the proportion of recent meth/amphetamines users by the main form used in the last 12 months (Figure 13). However, this is likely to be an underestimate as it only accounts for those people who reported that they used crystal/ice as their main form in the previous 12 months. Figure 13 shows that while overall recent meth/amphetamine use declined between 2013 and 2016, the proportion using crystal/ice remained relatively stable between 2013 and 2016 (1% and 0.8% respectively) but has increased since 2010 (0.4%). Use of forms other than crystal/ice has fallen since 2007 and significantly declined between 2013 and 2016 (from 1% to 0.6%).
There were more meth/amphetamines users reporting that they used prescription amphetamines for non-medical purposes in 2016 than in 2013 (Table 32)—the proportion using prescription amphetamines for non-medical purposes in their lifetime and as the main form used in the last 12 months both significantly increased between 2013 and 2016 (from 14.1% to 28% and from 3% to 11.1% respectively).
Note: Proportion mainly use ice or a form other than ice was calculated by distributing those meth/amphetamine users who did not answer the 'main form' question proportionally between the responses.
Meth/amphetamine users who mainly used crystal/ice were far more likely to use this drug on a regular basis (32% using it at least weekly) than those who mainly used power (only 5.6% of this group use powder each week; this estimate has a high relative standard error and should be interpreted with caution) (Table 34). There was also a non-significant increase in recent meth/amphetamine users using crystal weekly or more often between 2013 and 2016 (from 25% to 32%).
While cocaine and ecstasy were used by more people than methamphetamines in the previous 12 months, they were used much less frequently. For example, in 2016:
In the context of illicit drug use, a pharmaceutical is ‘a drug that is available from a pharmacy, over-the-counter or by prescription, which may be subject to misuse’ (MCDS 2011). Misuse includes use for non-medical purposes or in doses or frequencies other than those prescribed.
Prior to the 2016 survey (2013 and earlier), the survey captured the use of 'Pain-killers/analgesics' and 'Other opiates' separately. In 2016, pain-killers and opioids were combined into one section (now called 'Pain-killers/Pain-relievers and Opioids') and the use of non-opioid over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as paracetamol and aspirin were removed. This has resulted in a break in the time-series for pain-killers and opiates and also for the overall misuse of pharmaceuticals. While trend data have been reported for these drugs, they are not comparable.
Note: Base is recent users of pain-killers and opiates.
The 2013 NDSHS was the first to collect data on use of emerging psychoactive substances (EPS). EPS is a term used to describe drugs that are relatively new to the recreational drug market and have mind-altering effects similar to conventional illicit drugs (including those known as meow meow, DMT, Kronic and BZP) (NDARC 2013).
In 2016, 9.2% of the population (about 1.8 million) had been a victim of an illicit-drug related incident in the previous 12 months, a significant increase from 8.2% in 2013 (Table 39). There was a slight but non-significant decline in the proportion of people reporting that they were physically abused, from 2.1% in 2013 to 1.8% in 2016, but the proportion being put in fear significantly increased (from 5.0% to 6.0%)
There was a clear change in people’s attitudes towards specific drugs, particularly meth/amphetamines (Figure 15), in 2016.
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