Alcohol and other drug treatment services profiled in new report

Clients of publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment services are most likely to be getting help with alcohol-related problems, although treatment for problems with cannabis, heroin and amphetamines is also prominent, particularly among younger clients, according to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2002-03 report shows that alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 38% of treatment episodes Australia-wide, followed by cannabis (22%), heroin (18%) and amphetamines (11%).

The report covers 130,930 treatment episodes across 587 government-funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies*, and will assist with monitoring and evaluating the Australian Government's National Drug Strategy.

More than three-quarters (77%) of treatment episodes were for clients aged between 20 and 49 years, with males accounting for close to two-thirds (65%) of all treatment episodes.

Just over half (51%) of all treatment episodes involved at least one other drug of concern, in addition to the principal drug of concern. Alcohol was a problem drug in just over half (52%) of treatment episodes.

Counselling was the most common form of main treatment received by clients (42% of treatment episodes), followed by withdrawal management (detoxification) (19%), and assessment only (13%).

More than one-third (37%) of all treatment episodes involved clients who were self-referred. In these cases, the principal drug of concern was most likely to be alcohol (41%) or heroin (21%).

Report co-author Louise York said the report included a special focus on younger clients, aged between 10 and 29 years, which showed marked differences in younger clients' principal drugs of concern, as compared with clients aged 30 years and over.

'For example, cannabis was the principal drug of concern in half of all treatment episodes for 10-19 year olds and for almost a quarter of episodes for 20-29 year olds, compared to 13% for clients aged 30 years or more,' Ms York said.

'Younger clients were also more likely to receive treatment for the so-called 'party drugs' such as amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine. These were the principal drugs of concern in 11% of treatment episodes for 10-19 year olds, 16% for 20-29 year olds and 8% for clients 30 years and over.

'Conversely, under-30s were much less likely to seek treatment for alcohol, which accounted for 17% of treatment episodes for 10-19 year olds and 22% for 20-29 year olds, but 54% for older clients.'

*Agencies whose sole activity is to prescribe and/or dose methadone or other opioid maintenance therapies are excluded from the national data set.

9 September 2004

Further information: Louise York, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1271 or mobile 0407 915 851.
Background briefings: Chrysanthe Psychogios, AIHW tel. 02 6244 1068
For media copies of the report (12-page bulletin and/or full report): Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.