Cannabis and cocaine up, tobacco and tipples down: Australia’s drug and alcohol use

As recently as 2015, tobacco was the largest contributor to Australia’s “burden of disease”, the measurement of healthy years stolen by disease or injury. Tobacco accounted for 9.3% of the total disease burden, with alcohol (4.5%) the sixth-most burdensome problem. Up to 38% of Australia’s disease burden was preventable.

But those figures might be changing, with newly released data showing Australians’ tobacco use and alcohol consumption are decreasing.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, the same body who reports on disease burden) published the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 in July. The survey shows:

  • 11% of Aussies smoke tobacco daily (down from 1 2.2% in 2016 and 24% in 1991)
  • 39% of people reduced tobacco use in the last 12 months
  • 31% of people cut back on booze in 2019
  • 9% of people have given up drinking altogether, up from 7.6% in 2016

However, positive as these figures are, there is a darker undercurrent of drug use highlighted by the survey.

Why Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Counsellors might have cause for concern

Illicit drug use is climbing with cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy leading the pack:

  • 43% of Australians over 14 had used illicit drugs during their lifetime
  • 4% had used drugs in the last 12 months
  • 6% of people used cannabis in the last 12 months
  • Cocaine (4.2%), ecstasy (3%) and painkillers/opioids (2.7%) were the next most used

AIHW reports that “use of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy all rose between 2016 and 2019, as did the use of inhalants, hallucinogens, and ketamine, while the non-medical use of pain-killers and opioids fell over the same period.”

For Australia’s allied health professionals in rehabilitation centres, Youth Work and AOD Counselling, the uptick in dangerous drug use is sure to cause a few sleepless nights.

As we continue to battle the economic, social and mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a grave concern for a further spike in drug and alcohol use, especially among young people.

How increased funding is helping

Rolled into coronavirus relief measures in the hundreds of millions, the State Government announced $56 million to boost mental health services in Western Australia including a purpose-built rehabilitation facility treating adults for mental health and addiction concerns, plus a 16-bed youth mental health and AOD Counselling centre.

As a national leader in Mental Health courses, including our Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs, TrainSmart Australia welcomes any investment in support services for mental health, addiction, rehabilitation and youth.

Alcohol and Other Drugs Counsellors play a vital role in combating the effects of increased drug use and addiction. We encourage anyone interested in AOD Counselling to read more about our nationally-recognised Diploma course or contact us for course information.

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