Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Alcohol and other drug treatment services, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 07 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Alcohol and other drug treatment services. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services
Alcohol and other drug treatment services. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 14 April 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Alcohol and other drug treatment services [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Dec. 7]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Alcohol and other drug treatment services, viewed 7 December 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services
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Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use is linked to increased risk of injury, mental illness, preventable disease, road trauma and death (AIHW 2021). AOD treatment agencies across Australia provide a range of services and support to people receiving treatment for their own drug use, as well as their families and friends.
Many types of treatment are available in Australia to assist people with their drug use. Most treatments aim to reduce the harm of drug use (for example, counselling). Some treatments help clients to develop skills that facilitate drug-free lifestyles and prevent relapse (for example, abstinence-oriented interventions in a structured, substance-free setting).
Opioid pharmacotherapy is a type of treatment that can reduce drug cravings and other withdrawal symptoms in people experiencing opioid drug dependence (such as codeine or heroin dependence).
See Alcohol and Illicit use of drugs for information on use of alcohol and other drugs.
Agencies whose sole function is to prescribe or provide dosing services for opioid pharmacotherapy are excluded from the AODTS NMDS, as data from these agencies are captured in the NOPSAD collection (AIHW 2022a, 2022b).
Data from the AODTS NMDS indicate that around 138,000 clients aged 10 and over received AOD treatment in 2020–21. These clients received just over 242,000 closed treatment episodes from 1,278 publicly funded AOD treatment agencies.
Between 2013–14 and 2020–21, the estimated number of clients receiving AOD treatment rose by 21%. Across the same period, after adjusting for population growth, the rate of clients accessing AOD services increased from 564 to 616 per 100,000 population.
Data from the NOPSAD collection showed that around 47,600 clients received opioid pharmacotherapy treatment across Australia on a snapshot day in mid-2021 (excluding data for Queensland, which were not available in 2021). There were just under 2,500 dosing points nationally.
Opioid pharmacotherapy clients had broadly similar characteristics to clients of publicly funded AOD treatment agencies, but there was a higher proportion of people in older age groups. On a snapshot day in 2021:
Data from the AODTS NMDS indicate that alcohol continued to be the most common principal drug of concern (PDOC) that led clients to seek treatment for their own drug use in 2020–21.
However, between 2011–12 and 2020–21:
Figure 1: Proportion of closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use, by selected principal drugs of concern, 2011–12 to 2020–21
The stacked bar graph shows closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use by principal drug of concern, from 2011–12 to 2020–21. Alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis and heroin have remained the 4 most common principal drugs of concern across the period.
In 2020–21, 37% of closed treatment episodes were for alcohol as the principal drug of concern, 24% were for amphetamines, 19% were for cannabis and 4.6% were for heroin.
AODTS NMDS data indicate that there is variation across age groups in terms of the most common principal drugs of concern. In 2020–21:
Data from the NOPSAD collection showed that heroin remained the most common opioid drug of dependence among opioid pharmacotherapy clients in 2021 (44% of clients, excluding data for Queensland). Consistent with previous years, there was a high proportion of clients with ‘Not stated/not reported’ as the opioid drug of dependence (35% of clients) (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Proportion of clients receiving opioid pharmacotherapy treatment on a snapshot day, by opioid drug of dependence, 2016 to 2021
The stacked bar graph shows that between 2016 and 2021, heroin was the most common opioid drug of dependence among pharmacotherapy clients (excluding ‘Not stated/not reported’). In 2021, 37% of clients reported heroin as their drug of dependence. Across the period, there was a high proportion of Not stated/not reported responses (35% in 2021). Data for Queensland were not available in 2021.
Data from the AODTS NMDS indicate that counselling continues to be the most common main treatment type for clients accessing AOD treatment. Among clients seeking support for their own alcohol or drug use, 37% of treatment episodes in 2020–21 involved counselling as a main treatment and 21% involved an assessment only (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Proportion of closed episodes for clients’ own drug use, by main treatment type, 2011—12 to 2020—21
The stacked bar graph shows the closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use by main treatment type, from 2011–12 to 2020–21. In 2020—21, counselling was the most common main treatment type (37% of closed treatment episodes), followed by assessment only (21%) and support and case management (14%).
Data from the NOPSAD collection showed that methadone continues to be the most common pharmacotherapy drug provided to opioid pharmacotherapy clients. On a snapshot day in 2021, 58% of opioid pharmacotherapy clients received methadone as pharmacotherapy treatment, 23% received buprenorphine and 15% received buprenorphine-naloxone (excluding data for Queensland).
Measures put in place to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 introduced new challenges for clinicians and clients accessing AOD treatment services and opioid pharmacotherapy. These challenges included:
In response to COVID-19 restrictions, AOD treatment service providers across all jurisdictions have made changes to modes of treatment delivery. The aim is to support flexible treatment delivery and maintain the health and safety of clients and treatment service providers. While these changes varied across jurisdictions, changes included:
In response to COVID-19 restrictions, states and territories made temporary changes to opioid pharmacotherapy treatment guidelines and regulations. The aim was to support flexible treatment delivery and maintain the health and safety of patients and prescribers. While the implementation of these amended guidelines and regulations vary across jurisdictions, changes to pharmacotherapy treatment in the context of COVID-19 have included:
It is not yet known how COVID-19 will impact opioid pharmacotherapy treatment long-term.
For more information on alcohol and other drug treatment services and opioid pharmacotherapy in Australia, see:
Visit Alcohol & other drug treatment services for more on this topic.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2021) Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 22 March 2022.
AIHW (2022a) Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: Early insights, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 14 April 2022.
AIHW (2022b) National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data collection, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 30 March 2022.
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