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.

Parental supply of alcohol: New research finds no benefit but it is likely to increase how often teens drink

November 2019

Australian longitudinal research looking at almost 2000 adolescents found parental supply of alcohol was associated with increased alcohol consumption by their children during the early teens. While parental supply appeared to have less impact in later adolescence, the researchers stressed that there was no evidence to suggest that it was protective. They concluded that parents be advised “that any supply of alcohol to adolescents, especially those aged 16 or younger, should be avoided as there is no benefit and is instead likely to increase how often adolescents drink.”

Ecstasy pills on the decline, capsules on the rise: results of 2019 EDRS interviews released

October 2019

The 2019 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) interview findings were released with some very interesting results. The EDRS is an illicit drug monitoring system which has been conducted across Australia since 2003 and NDARC has provided a “suite of products” highlighting some of the findings. The study interviews almost 800 ecstasy users, mostly young, well-educated males and is not representative but provides some useful information on trends. Reports of ecstasy pill use continued to decline, with capsules being the most commonly-used form for the first time. Both recent use of cocaine and ketamine use was the highest reported since monitoring began.

Wastewater provides estimates of Australian drug usage

October 2019

The eighth report from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) was released. The study examines wastewater from sewage treatment plants in both capital cities and regional areas to estimate drug usage across the country. Methylamphetamine had the highest dose levels of all the illicits included in the report but it is important to note that comparisons on consumption of different drugs in this report is based on “doses consumed rather than drug mass”. This study does not look at prevalence. The high levels of methylamphetamine found could be due to a larger number of people using small amounts, or a relatively small number of people using larger amounts of the drug.

European Drug Report 2019 released

June 2019

The European Drug Report 2019: Trends and Developments provides a comprehensive analysis of drug trends across the EU, Turkey and Norway. Some of the issues that it highlights this year are increasing cocaine availability, new synthetic opioids and their link to fatal overdoses, as well as the latest developments in the European cannabis market. This is always a fascinating read with so much of the information provided having a direct impact on what we are, or will be seeing in this country.

New study: TV alcohol advertising encourages young people to engage in risky drinking

January 2019

Research studying the ‘push/pull’ factors that influence adolescents’ drinking behaviours found that alcohol advertising exposure directly influences and encourages adolescents to engage in risky drinking. It is the first Australian study to examine the relative influence of a range of variables including television alcohol advertising, retail alcohol outlet density and the proportion of alcohol-related articles in newspapers, on the drinking behaviour of young people. The media release quotes lead author Dr Victoria White from the Cancer Council of Victoria as saying “One of the key findings of this report is that the risky drinking of adolescents can be reduced by restricting youth access to alcohol, reducing the availability of alcohol and reducing television advertising.”

2017 ASSAD data released: School students and alcohol and other drug use

December 2018

The Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey examines school-based young people’s use of licit and illicit substances. A PDF version of the 2017 survey results, together with another report examining trends identified in the ASSAD survey between 1996–2017, is available on the Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy website. The findings are mostly positive, particularly when it comes to alcohol and tobacco. The number of 12-17-year-olds who reported never drinking alcohol increased once again to more than one third (34%), up from only one in ten in 1999. Lifetime use of ecstasy had doubled amongst 12-17-year-olds since 2014, however, with 16% of 17-year-old males reporting ever having used the drug.
DARTA has produced a downloadable presentation on these results in both PPT and PDF formats.

More Australians changing their drinking behaviour: quitting, drinking less or drinking less often

October 2018

New research from LaTrobe University found that 30% of Australians recently reduced the amount of alcohol they drank and a further 29% reduced the frequency of their drinking, while 6% quit altogether. Most interestingly, those in their 20s were leading the way in reducing alcohol intake, citing lifestyle reasons such as work, education and family as to why they made the change. “Most surprisingly, we found that intoxication is not as acceptable as it once was, with more than a third of 14 to 30-year-olds who had quit drinking doing so because they dislike the impact alcohol has on their social experiences,” said lead researcher Dr Amy Pennay. “They believe in moderation, they are concerned about violence and they want to avoid drunkenness or genuinely dislike how getting drunk makes them feel.”

WHO report finds 3 milion people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016

September 2018
More than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016, according to the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018 released by the World Health Organization (WHO). This represents 1 in 20 deaths. More than three quarters of these deaths were among men. Of these deaths, 28% were due to injuries, such as those from traffic crashes; 21% due to digestive disorders; 19% due to cardiovascular diseases, and the remainder due to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions. Globally an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol-use disorders with the highest prevalence among men and women in the European region (14.8% and 3.5%) and the Region of Americas (11.5% and 5.1%).

Australian consumption of alcohol at lowest levels since the 1960s

September 2018
Apparent consumption of alcohol per person has dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s, according to an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report. The total alcohol consumed in Australia was equivalent to 9.4 litres for every person in Australia aged 15 years and over, the lowest annual figure since 1961-62. The media release states that this can be expressed as the average Australian “consuming the equivalent of 224 stubbies (375 ml) of beer, 38 bottles (750ml) of wine, 17 bottles (375ml) of cider, four bottles (700ml) of spirits and 33 cans (375ml) of premixed ready to drink varieties”. While 224 stubbies may sounds like a lot, it’s half of what was being consumed in 1974-75 “when Australia reached ‘peak beer’ and the consumption was equivalent to over 500 stubbies per person.”

Australasian study finds regular teen drinking leads to adult alcohol problems

July 2018
Using four longitudinal studies from both Australia and New Zealand, up to 9000 participants were assessed on multiple occasions between the ages 13 and 30 years. The researchers claim that the study provides the “most robust evidence to date that there is a causal relationship between adolescent drinking and alcohol problems in adulthood”. One of the most important findings was that frequency of drinking during adolescence predicts substance use problems in adulthood as much as, and possibly more than, heavy episodic drinking (i.e., ‘binge drinking’). So when a parent says their child “only has a couple of beers when they go out on the weekend – he doesn’t get drunk!”, believing that to be protective – this study debunks that myth. Teen experimentation with alcohol does not promote responsible drinking: instead, it sets a young person up for later–life problem drinking. A media release outlining the major findings is available.

Australia’s health report shows fewer smoking and more are drinking less often

June 2018
Australia’s Health 2018, a biennial report released by the Australian Institute of Welfare (AIHW) is not new data, but rather a summary of previously released research findings on the health of Australians. There are three sections that examine alcohol and other drug use and its impact – Tobacco smoking, Alcohol risk of harm and Illicit drug use. It shows that fewer of us are smoking or putting ourselves at risk from long-term alcohol use than in the past and provides a good summary of the trends in illicit drug use since 2001, particularly methamphetamine (‘ice’). A media release provides a summary of the entire report.

World Drug Report 2018: prescription drug abuse continues to be a growing problem

June 2018

The non-medical use of prescription drugs is causing greater harm and accounting for growing numbers of drug-related deaths, according to the 2018 World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The comprehensive report provides a global overview of the supply and demand of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as their impact on health. The site has a great feature where you can look at annual prevalence of drug use across the world. It is important to note that comparing drug use figures is problematic as countries have different laws, religious and social values and the way data is collected varies. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting read.

Highest number of drug induced deaths in Australia in 20 years

May 2018
According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report, Drug Induced Deaths in Australia: A changing story there were 1,808 drug induced deaths registered in 2016. This is the highest number of drug deaths in twenty years, and is similar to the number recorded in the late 1990s, when the so-called ‘heroin epidemic’ was at its peak. Younger Australians (under 35 years of age) have lower rates of drug induced death when compared to 1999, while those aged 45 and over generally have higher rates. Deaths from illicit substances like heroin and methamphetamines are more likely to occur among younger age groups, while deaths from benzodiazepines and prescription opiates tend to occur among older people.

1 in 20 Australian deaths caused by alcohol and illicit drugs

March 2018
Using data from the 2011 Australian Bureau of Disease Study, researchers calculated the health impact (or ‘burden’) of alcohol and illicit drugs in this Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report. Combined, alcohol and illicit drugs were responsible for 4.5% of all deaths in Australia in 2011 – approximately 6,600 deaths, or about 1 in every 20 deaths. A media release summarising the findings is also available.

Australian study finds no evidence to support parental supply of alcohol is ‘protective’

January 2018
More data was released from the UNSW longitudinal study, now looking at a 6-year period of adolescence. The authors found that there was “no evidence to support the view that parental supply protects from adverse drinking outcomes by providing alcohol to their child.” In fact, they found that parental provision of alcohol to children was associated with subsequent binge drinking, alcohol-related harm(s) and symptoms of alcohol use disorder. Most interestingly, parental supply was found to be “associated with increased risk of other supply, not the reverse”, i.e., if a parent gave their child alcohol, they were more likely to then get alcohol from somewhere else as well.

2016 NDSHS detailed findings report released

September 2017
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.