Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia: Recent trends report


The latest report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) claims that the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is a major cause of preventable disease and illness in Australia.

Consolidating the most recently available information on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, the report highlights a strong link between problematic alcohol or other drug use and experience of homelessness.


The report also analysed the key trends in the availability, consumption, harms and treatment for vulnerable populations and found that tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Australia.

Although daily tobacco smoking in Australia has declined since 1991 from 24.3 per cent to 12.2 per cent, it is the leading cause of cancer.

Data also found that 57 per cent of daily smokers were aged over 40 in 2016 and 20 per cent of daily smokers lived in remote and very remote areas of Australia.


The report found that the majority of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol, however the proportion of people drinking in excess of lifetime and single occasion risk guidelines has been declining since 2010 and continues to decline.

Despite this downward trend, alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern for which clients sought treatment in 2016-2017.

Around 1 in 3 (36 per cent) Australians aged 14 and over exceeded the single occasion risk guidelines by consuming more than four standard drinks in one sitting.


Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit drug in the country and people who inject drugs experience considerable poorer health outcomes than other drug users.

According to the report, deaths involving methamphetamine were four times higher in 2016 than in 1999. Deaths where benzodiazepines or other opioids were present have increased since 2006.

Treatment where heroin was the principal drug of concern has declined over the past 10 years from 10.5 per cent in 2008 to 5.2 per cent in 2017.

Non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs

One of the key findings of the report revealed that non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs is an increasing public health problem in Australia, with evidence suggesting increasing prevalence of misuse and associated harms including mortality.

Between 2006 and 2016, the number of deaths where benzodiazepines or other opioids were present rose by 168 per cent and 127 per cent, respectively.

In 2016, 1 in 20 (4.8 per cent) Australians aged 14 and over reported misusing a pharmaceutical drug in the previous 12 months.

You can view the report in more detail on the AIHW website.

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