Research and Statistics

We are learning more about the area of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) all the time and it is important to keep up-to-date with current findings. It can also be useful to look at trends across time but it can often be difficult to locate older reports (with some no longer being able to be accessed online), so DARTA has provided those that are still available in a downloadable PDF format.

In addition, here is a selection of some recent research and statistics on alcohol and other drugs, with a particular emphasis on that which relates to young people.

2016 NDSHS detailed findings report released

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey collected information from almost 24,000 people across Australia on their tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use, attitudes and opinions. This report expands on the key findings from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) that were released in June 2017. It presents more detailed analysis including comparisons between states and territories and for population groups. The media release that highlighted that mental illness was rising among methamphetamine and ecstasy users is also available.

2016 NDSHS key findings released

June 2017
‘Key findings’ of the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) report were released online on June 1, 2017. The research found that those aged under 30 were smoking less, drinking less and using fewer illicit drugs in 2016. However, for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, there was little to no change in drug usage, although their use of some drugs had increased between 2013 and 2016.

Fewer 12–17 year-olds were drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol significantly increased from 2013 to 2016 (from 72% to 82%). Declines were seen in recent use of some illegal drugs in 2016 including meth/amphetamines (from 2.1% to 1.4%), hallucinogens (1.3% to 1.0%), and synthetic cannabinoids (1.2% to 0.3%).

DARTA has produced a downloadable presentation in both PPT and PDF formats on these first results.

Children and teens given alcohol by their parents are more likely to drink by age 15 or 16

January 2017
An Australian study following 2,000 young people and their parents has found that parents giving sips of alcohol to their children leads to them being much more likely to be drinking full serves by age 15 or 16. Parental supply at any point in the study was associated with a doubling of the likelihood that the teens would be drinking full serves of alcohol when followed up a year later. Giving sips appeared to be protective for future binge drinking but the authors of the study cautioned parents in this area and advised that delaying for as long as possible was still the best strategy.

Full ASSAD 2014 report released and available

November 2016
The Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey is a triennial national survey of students’ use of licit and illicit substances and can sometimes take an extremely long time to be released – this has been one of those times! Both a Word and PDF version of the 2014 survey results are available on the Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy website. The findings are mostly extremely positive, particularly when it comes to alcohol and tobacco. The proportion of students who had used any illicit substance in their lifetime or in the past month had not changed when compared to the previous two surveys in 2011 and 2008. Recent use of cannabis, however, had risen across all age groups.
DARTA has produced a downloadable PowerPoint presentation in PDF format on the results.

2014 ASSAD Survey results finally released (well at least a media release announcing them!)

November 2016
Cancer Council Victoria have finally released the findings of the 2014 ASSAD Survey … well a media release announcing the results was issued. As with SA and WA (who have already released some of their state findings), the big news is that alcohol consumption amongst Australian secondary school students continues to decrease, with the proportion of 12-15 year-olds drinking at its lowest level since the survey began. Hopefully the full report will be available soon …

Australians are drinking less alcohol and more teens are choosing not to drink

October 2016
Trends in alcohol availability, use and treatment: 2003–04 to 2014–15 is not new research but a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) that uses several different data sources, including the previously released 2013 National Drug Household Survey results. Although alcohol consumption continues to be a major issue, more Australians abstained from alcohol in 2013, particularly young people aged 12–17, than in 2010 and those over 14 years old reported lower levels of drinking at risky levels compared with previous years. Not surprisingly, Australians aged 18–24 were more likely than any other age group to drink at risky levels for all but one measure of risky drinking.

WA releases 2014 ASSAD bulletins – alcohol and illicit drug use data for secondary school students

September 2016
WA becomes the first jurisdiction to release full (or at least reasonably full) bulletins from the 2014 ASSAD data. There is a 2014 ASSAD Alcohol Bulletin and a 2014 Illicit Drug Bulletin and both are well worth a read. The alcohol data once again shows a reduction in the number of students choosing to drink, with the research finding the lowest level of youth drinking in three decades – 9% of 12-17 year-olds reported never drinking in 1984 and in 2014 the number was 31.5%. Rates of illicit drug use were much lower as well, with only cannabis showing a slight increase in use since the 2011 survey.

The latest Illicit Drug Data Report has been released

August 2016
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has released the Illicit Drug Data Report 2014-2015. This document brings together data from many sources, all to do with Australian illicit drug markets. For each of the major drugs the report examines international trends and then discusses what is happening in this country. This is the 13th in the series and is really useful in providing information on what law enforcement is doing in this area.

UNODC’s World Drug Report 2016 is now available

June 2016
The World Drug Report 2016, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides a comprehensive overview of major developments in drug markets, trafficking routes and the health impact of drug use from a global perspective. There is no new Australian data provided here – all the information has been published before – but it is interesting to see where we ‘fit’ in terms of the world market. It examines illicit drug use in 2014 (or the latest year that data was available).

WA teases first results of 2014 ASSAD Survey: Youth drinking rates lowest in a decade

Not the full report or even a bulletin with a brief summary, instead the WA Government used some of the alcohol findings from the yet-to-be-released 2014 Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drugs (ASSAD) Survey to launch a parent campaign. Although only a brief media release what is there is very positive with the proportion of WA students choosing not to drink more than doubling from 12.3% in 2005 to 31.5% in 2014. The release also reports that their campaign tracking research showed that almost all parents (96 per cent) were now aware that no alcohol was the safest choice for under 18s, up from 68 per cent in 2012. More than 60 per cent now denied access to alcohol, compared with 56 per cent in 2012.

Smoking rates among Australian secondary school students lowest since records began

Data from the 2014 Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drugs (ASSAD) Survey shows only 5% of 12-17 year-olds surveyed were current smokers (had smoked the previous week). The full report does not appear to be available as yet, with the figures quoted in a media release from the Cancer Council. Ninety-four per cent of 12-year-olds had no experience with smoking, declining to 78% of 15-year olds and 61% of 17-year-olds. Only three per cent of all students had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, with a peak of 10% among 17-year-old males.

First findings from the SA 2014 ASSAD survey released

South Australia becomes the first jurisdiction to release preliminary results of their component of the 2014 Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drugs (ASSAD) Survey. In this DASSA Bulletin the authors note that there was a methodological change for this survey and comparisons should be “interpreted with caution”. Even with that in mind, the results are positive with the proportion of students who reported ever drinking alcohol decreasing from 78% (in 2011) to 68%. Lifetime use of alcohol also decreased among both male and female students.

The internet and drug markets

This report from the EMCDDA is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in knowing more about the world of online drug markets and everything to do with them. Surprisingly easy-to-read, it provides the most up-to-date information on how drugs are now being bought and sold from a variety of different perspectives. It’s a huge document but well worth a read – Chapter 12 (Social media and drug markets) is particularly interesting for those who ‘dip their toe’ into Facebook and Twitter but want to know more about how these platforms (and so many others) can be used to promote and sell illicit drugs.

Alcohol education: What really works in schools?

South Australia-based National Centre Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) completed a major systematic review of research on alcohol education programs in secondary schools. This 4-page summary of the review’s findings provides teachers looking for an evidence-based alcohol resource some extremely useful information on effectiveness of available programs. Interestingly, out of a total of 39 programs reviewed, only 3 were found to have good evidence of effectiveness. Australia’s own Climate Schools, and two US resources – Project ALERT and All Stars have, according to the authors, enough trusted evidence to be confidently implemented.

Rate of teens abstaining from alcohol almost doubles in 13 years

A study funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) examining Australian drinking patterns found a decline in underage binge drinking and an increase in the age at which many young people first drink alcohol. It also found the number of Australians aged between 14 and 17 who are binge drinking has decreased by half over the last 13 years, while the number of abstainers has more than doubled. Like the NDARC research paper released last year, this study uses data from previously released National Drug Strategy Household Surveys, not surprisingly finding very similar results.

Cancer Council Victoria launches new campaign highlighting the link between alcohol and cancer

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat (pharynx and larynx), oesophagus, bowel (colon and rectum), liver and female breast, with the same number of Australians dying from alcohol-related cancers as from melanoma each year. In response, Cancer Council Victoria has launched a new campaign ‘Drink Less Live More’ to increase public awareness of the issue.

101 new psychoactive substances identified in Europe in 2014

This short report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) provides an update on new psychoactive substances (NPS) in Europe for 2014. It highlights the growth of the market over the past few years (101 new substances in 2014 compared to 13 in 2008), with a staggering 46,370 seizures by law enforcement amounting to more than 3.1 tonnes. Information is provided on what we know about harms associated with the substances and they have provided an accompanying poster/wall-chart that makes for easy reading if you don’t want to read the full report.

2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report released

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released the preliminary findings of the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) in July 2014. They have now released the 2013 NDSHS detailed report which provides more information on such things as age groups, state and territory comparisons and much more. Interestingly this report is much more ‘user friendly’ than it has been in the past and has a very strong design element throughout – much less daunting for the average reader than in previous years.

Alcohol kills 15 Australians each day

Alcohol causes 15 deaths and hospitalises 430 Australians every day, a new VicHealth and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) report has found. The Alcohol’s Burden of Disease in Australia report found 5,554 deaths and 157,132 hospitalisations were caused by alcohol in 2010, with the number of deaths increasing by 62 per cent since the study was last undertaken a decade ago.

The report itself, written by Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, is fairly dense and may be difficult for the average reader to get through. FARE however have produced a wonderful infographic that provides a great summary of the information contained within the report.

2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey – first results released

‘Highlights’ of the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) report were released online on July 17, 2014. The key results of this survey were generally positive.

Fewer Australians are smoking daily, with the number of daily smokers halving since 1991. The number dropped significantly between 2010 and 2013, from 15.1% to 12.8% among people 14 or older. The age at which 14 to 24-year-olds first tried alcohol rose from 14.4 to 15.7 years of age between 1998 and 2013, with the proportion of 12-17 year olds abstaining from alcohol rising from 64% to 72% between 2010 and 2013.

Declines in the use of ecstasy, heroin and GHB were reported but the misuse of pharmaceuticals appears to be on the rise (from 4.2% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2013). Some media outlets reported that the survey found that ‘ice’ use had doubled since 2010 when in fact the use of meth/amphetamine remained at a similar level to 2010. That said, the use of ‘ice’ amongst amphetamine users (rather than across the general population) had indeed doubled – i.e., instead of using the powder form of the drug, they were more likely to use the crystalline form.

DARTA has produced a PowerPoint presentation on these first results which is available for download.

More Australian teenagers choosing not to drink

Using data from previously released National Drug Strategy Household Surveys, this NDARC research paper reports that rates of non-drinking among Australian adolescents aged 14-17 years have increased sharply over the past decade with over half now abstaining from alcohol. The percentage of Australian adolescents who did not drink, defined as not drinking alcohol over the past 12 months, jumped from 33 per cent in 2001 to just over 50 per cent in 2010. What was particularly interesting was that the decline “was uniform across gender, age, income, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, and teenagers living in the city and country.”

How much alcohol do Australians drink? New figures from the ABS

According to figures released in this Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) report, Australians are drinking less alcohol overall than any time in the previous 15 years. The report explains that the decrease is mainly due to a continuation of the downward trend in apparent consumption of beer, at the same time as a flattening out in wine consumption.
However, beer still comprised the greatest proportion of all pure alcohol consumed in Australia at 41%, followed by wine (37%), spirits (13%), and ready-to-drink beverages (7%). Cider is estimated to account for a small but growing proportion, at 2%.

What makes a difference to the secondary supply of alcohol?

Parents should be made to do ‘community service’, such as cleaning the streets the ‘morning after the night before’ if they are found to be supplying alcohol to their under 18s, according to a new report from UK ‘think tank’ Demos. According to the report, the majority of UK teens get their alcohol through parents, friends and older siblings, rather than buying it themselves (as do their Australian counterparts). However, these proxy-purchasers aren’t facing the consequences for the harm they are doing – this report argues that this should change. ago but I forgot to post it … The best part about this document is that it highlights some best practice strategies implemented across the UK that have actually made a difference. It’s an interesting read ..

2011 ASSAD Survey results

The 2011 Australian Secondary School Students’ use of tobacco, alcohol and over-the-counter and illicit substances report has been released. Once again, the data shows quite clearly that the majority of Australian secondary school students do not use illicit drugs. Here are just a few of the key findings:

  • in terms of lifetime drug use, rates were either stable or decreasing for all illicit drug use (apart for cannabis) when compared to the 2008 ASSAD survey among 12-17 year old students
  • lifetime cannabis use had risen from 13.6% in 2008 to 14.8% in 2011
  • 15.6% of 12-17 year old students reported using any illicit drug, including cannabis, in their lifetime. Excluding cannabis use, just 6.5% of students reported using any illicit drug in their lifetime
  • download DARTA’s 2011 ASSAD presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint format or Adobe PDF

Alcohol Think Again: WA alcohol education campaigns

With the release of the WA ASSAD Survey Alcohol Bulletin comes an accompanying ‘Parents, Young People and Alcohol‘ campaign. The WA Government is doing an outstanding job in this area and this is the second campaign rolled out in under 12 months. The previous one was ‘Alcohol and Cancer‘ launched in March which aimed to increase the community’s awareness of the link between drinking and a range of cancers. Both of the advertisements, seen only in WA at this time, are great tools that can be used to stimulate discussion with young people. Check out the resources that can be ordered online as well.

WA 2011 ASSAD Survey Alcohol Bulletin

At last we finally have the first release of the results of the 2011 Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drugs (ASSAD) Survey. The Government of WA’s Drug and Alcohol Office (DAO) have released a Bulletin summarising the alcohol findings from the survey for that state. Whether or not these figures reflect what we will see in the national findings we don’t know at this time but they are still very interesting. Overall drinking rates continue to decline but risky drinking is still rising. One particularly disturbing figure is that amongst male drinkers, rates of single occasion risky drinking have risen from 22.8% in 1993 to 40.6% in 2011. Spirits were the preferred drink, with 39.9% stating that this is the form of alcohol they usually drink. The good news was that reported parental supply of alcohol had dropped from 40.7% in 2008 to 28.2% in this survey. Perhaps the message is getting through?

A positive choice: Young people who drink little or no alcohol

The UK-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released a study examining young people aged 16-25 years who drink little or no alcohol in an effort to gain further understanding of their choices, learn from them and identify ways to help support them. One of the key points in the Summary document states that “Drinking and getting drunk is not an automatic rite of passage for young people in the UK. The findings of this study reflect that it is commonplace for young people to drink to choose to drink little or no alcohol.”

Once again it is UK data, but much of what is discussed is relevant to the Australian experience. Sadly, young people interviewed felt that alcohol education as well as alcohol messages are “based on the assumption that young people will drink.”

Classroom management techniques: The future of prevention?

This is another commentary by UK-based Drug and Alcohol Findings, this time discussing research on a classroom management technique implemented in the first years of schooling which “has led to remarkably strong and persistent impacts on substance use and other problems in later life.” This study adds to the growing amount of evidence suggesting that drug education programs need to be quite broad to be successful, targeting problem behavior more generally, rather than drug use specifically.

Secondary supply laws in Victoria

From 1 November 2011 it will be against the law in Victoria to serve alcohol in a private home to anyone under 18, unless their parent or guardian has given permission.VicHealth has developed a website providing information to Victorian parents and their children on how this new legislation will affect them.

The health benefits of alcohol?

Two recently published articles question the perceived health benefits of alcohol that are often raised in the media and promoted by the alcohol industry. The Cancer Council of Australia recently developed a Position Statement on alcohol and cancer risk, stating that any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer and the level of risk increases in line with how much is drunk. The other, from the Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC), challenges the commonly-held belief that red wine is beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease.