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Trends in Drug Use and Related Harms in Australia

Image: cover of Trends in Drug Use and Related Harms in Australia, 2001-2013
Author: Amanda Roxburgh, Alison Ritter, Tim Slade, Lucy Burns

Resource Type: National Illicit Drug Indicators Project (NIDIP) Reports

Trends in Drug Use and Related Harms in Australia is updated periodically. This page will always host the most recently available version of the report. Each version will also be permanently located at the following pages: 
Trends in Drug Use and Related Harms in Australia, 2001 to 2011
The purpose of this resource document is to collate various data sources that document trends in alcohol and other drug use and harms in Australia. We hope that it will be a useful resource document.
For an executive summary of trends by substance type, please click the links below.
The main data sources used for this report are:
  1. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS)
  2. Australian Secondary Students Survey of Alcohol and other Drugs (ASSAD)
  3. Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS)
  4. Ecstasy and related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS)
  5. Illicit Drug Data Report (IDDR)
  6. National Minimum Data Set – Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia (NMDS - AODTS)
  7. National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD)
  8. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death database
  9. Seizure data from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
There is an important distinction between the general population surveys (data source 1 and 2, for example) and those surveys of sentinel groups (such as 3 and 4). Interpretation of the general population data is different from the sentinel group data. Sentinel groups are chosen precisely because they engage in illicit drug use, and are likely to have knowledge about market characteristics. Sentinel groups cannot tell us about general population prevalence, but are vital in describing harms and changing patterns of consumption within the drug using population itself.
Within each drug we provide data (where available) on:
  • Prevalence of past year use over time among the general population;
  • Prevalence of past six month use over time among sentinel groups of drug users in Australia that are monitored by the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) and the Ecstasy and related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS);
  • Trends in frequency of use among the general population and among sentinel groups;
  • Numbers seeking treatment;
  • Indicators of drug-related harm using mortality and hospital admissions;
  • Law enforcement activity (arrests and seizures) for illicit drugs;
  • Market indicators including user reports of availability, price and purity.
We sought consistent high quality indicators that had reliable data over a number of years. In addition, we used national data wherever possible. Some indicators such as ambulance call-outs are available but not in a nationally consistent manner. Therefore we did not include these.