Drug statistics

Illicit drug use in the last 12 months

According to the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 15.6% of Australians had used an illicit drug in the last 12 months. The South Australian percentage was no different at 15.7%. The Recent use of any illicit drug 2001-2016 (PDF 11KB) graph illustrates this finding.

The most commonly used illicit drug in South Australia in 2016 was cannabis (10.7%) followed by cocaine (2%), meth/amphetamine (1.9%) and ecstasy (1.6%); note that ecstasy use decreased significantly from 2.8% in 2013. The percentage of men who reported using illicit drugs was higher than that of women (18.7% compared with 13.2%) and the age group with the highest percentage of people who reported recent illicit drug use was aged 18-24 years (28.9%).

Illicit drug use among secondary school students

In 2014, 14% of secondary students reported ever using an illicit drug and 2.9% reported using an illicit drug in the last week. There was no statistically significant differences between the 2014 and 2011 percentages.

Secondary students who had tried illicit drugs or who had used them in the last week (PDF 19KB)

Cannabis is the illicit drug most commonly used by secondary students; ever used - 11.2% and used in the last week - 2%. There was no statistically significant differences between the 2014 and 2011 percentages.

Secondary students who had tried cannabis or who had used it in the last week (PDF 19KB).

The following research publications provide more detail regarding secondary school student drug use:

Illicit drug use requiring treatment services

In South Australia, amphetamines were the most common principal drugs of concern for which treatment was sought in 2015-16, accounting for 36% of closed treatment episodes. Alcohol and cannabis were the second and third most common, accounting for 28% and 17% of closed treatment episodes, respectively. There has been an increase in amphetamines as the principal drugs of concern over the last few years (29% of episodes in 2014-15 and 27% in 2013-14), with a decrease in alcohol (32% of episodes in 2014-2015 and 36% in 2013-14)1. More detailed findings are provided in the following research publication:

[1] An important reason why South Australia has a high proportion of episodes of treatment where amphetamines are the principal drugs of concern and assessment only is the main treatment type is that SA data include assessment under the Police Drug Diversion Initiative. This program is legislated in SA, unlike other jurisdictions, and therefore results in a much higher percentage of assessment only services and a very high rate of engagement with amphetamine users. In addition, due to the Cannabis Expiation Notice legislation in South Australia, adult simple cannabis offences are not diverted to treatment and so are excluded from the data.

Overdose deaths

Information on the number and rate of drug-induced deaths in Australia among between 1997 and 2016 can be found in a recent bulletin released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. This bulletin reports on opioid, amphetamine, and cocaine-induced deaths provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) using data from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).

This bulletin includes an online visualisation that allows viewers to look at trends over time by drug, opioid class, jurisdiction, sex, age group, intent, as well as reporting on drug-induced deaths where amphetamine or cocaine are contributory (capturing where cocaine or amphetamine contributed to, but another drug caused, death).

Drug trends

The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) provides information about drug trends:

Blood-borne virus infection

Australian Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) Survey findings show that there has been a decrease over time in HCV antibody prevalence in both South Australia and Australia. There were also decreases between 2015 and 2016, from 57% to 51% in Australia and from 47% to 38% in South Australia.  

For HIV there has been a decrease in antibody prevalence in South Australia over time, from 1.5% in 2001 to 0.4% in 2016; the decrease between 2012 and 2016 was statistically significant. Note that actual numbers are small (one survey respondent tested positive for HIV in 2016). There has been a small increase in Australia, from 0.9% in 2001 to 1.4% in 2016, but again, numbers are small (31 survey respondents tested positive for HIV in 2016) and prevalence has remained stable since 2012.

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