Understanding Addiction 

 January 4, 2024

By  Heather Marrapodi

Understanding the Scale

  • In 2019 the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), reported that around one in six Western Australian’s aged 14 years + reported using illicit drugs in the previous 12 months. This is the lowest proportion recorded by the NDSHS since 2001
  • In 2019, 11.2% (one in 10) had used cannabis recently vs 2.1% that had used methamphetamine, this has halved from 2007 (4.2%)
  • Recent NDSHS in 2021 reveal that over 3 million Australians aged 14 and older have engaged in illicit drug use

The most commonly used illicit drugs used over the last 12 months included;

  • In 2019, 25% of people over 14 consumed more than 4 standard drinks a day regularly
  • In 2021–22, around 131,000 people aged 10 and over received treatment from alcohol and other drug treatment services. The four most common drugs that led clients to seek treatment were alcohol (42% of episodes), amphetamines (24%), cannabis (19%) and heroin (4.5%). The median age of clients was 37 years (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

demographic insights

  • Epidemiological studies highlight that young adults are particularly vulnerable, with 27.4% reporting recent illicit drug use. Additionally, Indigenous Australians face disproportionately higher rates of substance abuse.
  • In 2020, people in their 50’s (21%) and 60’s (17.4%) were more likely to drink at levels that exceeded the lifetime risk guidelines than the general population aged 14 years and over (16.8%)
  • In 2019, people with a mental health condition were; 1.7 times as likely to have recently used an illicit drug (26% compared to 15.2%) 1.8 times as likely to have used cannabis (19.4% compared to 10.7%) About 2.2 times as likely to have used meth. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
  • In 2019, people aged 20-29 were most likely to have used an illicit drug in the last 12 months Males were more likely to have recently used illicit drugs in comparison to females (18.1% and 12.9%)
  • In contrast to 2007, 2019 recent illicit drug use has decreased significantly among 14-17, and 18-24 year olds, and has remained relatively stable among 25-29, 30-39, and 40-49 year olds, but has increased significantly among 50-59 year olds (Drug Aware)