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.

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.

What school-based programs work best at preventing drinking problems?

UK-based Drug and Alcohol Findings is a project which aims to “encapsulate studies’ findings, set them in context and to explore the implications for practice”. This authoritative review finds that school programs which work best at preventing youth drinking problems are not specifically about alcohol at all, but instead target problem behaviour more generally. It also emphasises that in respect of preventing harmful drinking, no type of psychosocial intervention has attracted as much scientific support as population-wide changes like price rises and outlet restrictions which affect everyone, independent of the choices they make.

Parenting style and ‘binge drinking’

Independent UK think tank Demos has released a report called ‘Under the Influence‘ examining the impact of parenting style on their child’s future drinking behaviour. Researchers analysed data from more than 15,000 children born in Britain over the last 40 years as part of the study. They found the “tough love” style of parenting, which combined warmth and discipline, was the most effective in ensuring against children developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Conversely, ‘bad parenting’ at 16 made children more than eight times more likely to become binge drinkers at that age and twice as likely to drink excessively when they were 34.

2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report

The 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) report was released on July 27, 2011 and was the first to exclusively use the ‘drop and collect’ method. Previous surveys had used a combination of computer-assisted telephone interviews and drop and collect, or personal interviews.

This survey showed positive reductions in daily tobacco smoking; mixed findings on alcohol consumption and risk; and a small overall rise in illicit drug use. More than 26,000 people aged 12 years or older participated in the survey, in which they were asked about their knowledge of and attitudes towards drugs, their drug consumption histories, and related behaviours. Most of the analysis presented is of people aged 14 years or older, so that results can be compared with previous reports.

DARTA has produced a Powerpoint presentation highlightling many of the findings included in the report.

Young people, alcohol and influences

This report from the UK-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation presents the findings from a major study of young people and their relationship with alcohol, and explores the wide range of influences on their drinking. The study surveyed 5,700 teenagers aged 13–14 (Year 9) and 15–16 (Year 11) in schools in England and examines the strongest influences on and predictors of young people’s drinking.

Although it is UK data, much of what is discussed is relevant to the Australian experience. In addition to this report there are a number of others on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website dealing with young people and alcohol that make for interesting reading.

Alcohol consumption in Australia: 1944-45 to 2008-09

This Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publication provides estimates of apparent consumption of alcohol based on the availability of alcoholic beverages in Australia. It provides estimates of the quantity of pure alcohol available for consumption from beer, wine, spirits, and ready to drink (pre-mixed) beverages, plus estimates of the total volume of beer and wine available for consumption. For beer, data is available for 1944-45 onwards. For wine, estimates of pure alcohol are available for 1960-61 onwards while estimates of the volume of wine are available from 1944-45 onwards. For spirits, estimates of pure alcohol are available for 1960-61 onwards. The link can be found here.

Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2008

This is the 9th survey in a series assessing use of tobacco and alcohol, and the 5th to include questions on use of over-the-counter and illicit substances, by secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years. Although certain jurisdictions (e.g., SA, WA and ACT) released their own data earlier, this is the national data and can be compared to previous ASSAD surveys. The link can be found here.

DARTA has produced a 2007 Microsoft Powerpoint presentation highlighting some of the major findings of this survey.