Illicit drug use in the last 12 months
According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 16.4% of Australians had used an illicit drug in the last 12 months. The South Australian percentage was lower at 15.4%. The Recent use of any illicit drug 2001-2019 (PDF 11KB) graph illustrates this finding.
The most commonly used illicit drug in South Australia (at least once in the last 12 months) in 2019 was cannabis (10.6%) followed by cocaine (2.5%), inhalants (1.3%) and ecstasy (1.3%). Recent use of meth/amphetamine decreased significantly between 2016 (1.9%) and 2019 (1%). The percentage of men who reported using illicit drugs was higher than that of women (16.7% compared with 14.1%) and the age group with the highest percentage of people who reported recent illicit drug use was age 20-29 years (28.6%).
Illicit drug use among secondary school students
The proportion of secondary school students who had ever used at least one illicit drug (includes cannabis, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens) has decreased significantly since 1996. In 2017, 12.8% of students reported ever using at least one illicit drug; this remained stable between 2014 and 2017.
In 2017, there were no significant differences between male and female students: 12.6% of male students reported ever using at least one illicit drug compared with 13.1% of female students. However, there were differences in use by age group: those aged 16-17 years were significantly more likely to have ever used at least one illicit drug (18.2% vs. 9.7% of those aged 12-15 years) or to have used in the last year (17.6% vs. 7.4%). Data on illicit drug use in the last week was not included due to unreliable estimates.
- Secondary school students who have tried illicit drugs by age group (PDF 98KB)
- Secondary school students who have used illicit drugs in the last year by age group (PDF 98KB)
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug, 10.2% of secondary school students in 2017 had ever used cannabis. This has remained stable since 2008, although there has been a significant decrease since 1996.
In 2017, there were no significant differences between male and female students: 10.4% of male students reported ever using at cannabis compared with 10.1% of female students. However, there were differences in use by age group: those aged 16-17 years were significantly more likely to have ever used cannabis (17% vs. 6.6% of those aged 12-15 years) or to have used in the last year (16.4% vs. 5.3%). Data on cannabis use in the last week was not included due to unreliable estimates.
- Secondary school students who have tried cannabis by age group (PDF 98KB)
- Secondary school students who have used cannabis in the last year by age group (PDF 98KB)
- DASSA Statistical Bulletin No 17 - Alcohol and other drug use among South Australian secondary school students (PDF 218KB)
- DASSA Statistical Bulletin No 3 - Alcohol and other drug use among South Australian secondary school students (PDF 140KB)
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:
 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.
Information on the number and rate of drug-induced deaths in Australia among between 1997 and 2017 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).
The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) provides information about drug trends:
- Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Drug Trends 2017 (PDF 2451KB)
- Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) Drug Trends 2017 (PDF 1254KB)
Blood-borne virus infection
The Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey (ANSPS) provides estimates of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) antibodies among people who inject drugs in Australia.
There has been a significant decrease in the last decade in HCV antibody prevalence in Australia, from 53% in 2012 to 36% in 2021. This has also decreased significantly in the last five years, with prevalence at 49% in 2017. HCV antibody prevalence in South Australia decreased significantly between 2017 (45%) and 2021 (30%).
For HIV there has been no significant change in antibody prevalence in the last decade in Australia, from 1.2% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2021, as well as no change in the last five years, with prevalence at 2.1% in 2017. In South Australia, HIV antibody prevalence has remained stable over the last five years, and was at 0% in 2021. Note that the actual numbers are small (no respondents tested positive for HIV in 2021 in South Australia, and 21 nationally).