Key findings

A summary of alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment agencies across Australia provide a range of services and support to people receiving treatment for their drug use, as well as for their families and friends. These key findings present high-level information for 2018–19 about publicly funded AOD treatment services, the people they treated, and the treatment provided.

Many types of treatment are available in Australia to assist people experiencing problematic drug use. Most aim to reduce the harm of drug use, for example, counselling, information and education, and diversion programs. Some treatments specifically aim to help clients develop skills that facilitate drug-free lifestyles and prevent relapse; these typically use abstinence-oriented interventions in a structured, substance-free setting.

Box 1.1: Key facts

In 2018–19:

  • 1,283 publicly funded AOD treatment agencies provided 219,933 treatment episodes to 136,999 clients aged 10 and over. This equates to 623 clients and 1,000 episodes per 100,000 people
  • nationally, clients received an average of 1.6 treatment episodes for their own drug use
  • across all jurisdictions, the number of agencies ranged from 16 in the Australian Capital Territory to 440 in New South Wales
  • when seeking treatment for their own drug use, clients most commonly reported their principal drug of concern as alcohol (36% of treatment episodes), amphetamines (28%), cannabis (20%) and heroin (5%)
  • where amphetamines were reported as the PDOC, almost two thirds (66%) of closed treatment episodes were for methamphetamines only 
  • nationally, counselling was the most common treatment type (39% of all episodes).

Over the period from 2009–10 to 2018–19:

  • the number of publicly funded agencies providing data about services for clients seeking treatment and support rose from 670 to 1,283
  • nationally, alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, and heroin continued to be the most common principal drugs of concern, with the proportion of closed treatment episodes for amphetamines increasing (from 7% to 28%) and decreasing for cannabis (from 23% to 20%) and heroin (from 10% to 5%)
  • counselling remained the most common main treatment type, while withdrawal management decreased (from 17% of closed treatment episodes to 11%)
  • the median duration of heroin treatment episodes decreased from 34 days to 19 days, the largest change in treatment duration compared with alcohol (22 days to 26 days), cannabis (18 days to 17 days) and amphetamines (32 days to 28 days).  

The vertical bar chart shows the number of agencies in Australia by sector. In 2018–19, there were 881 non-government agencies and 402 government agencies. The number of publicly funded agencies rose from 670 in 2009–10 to 1,283 in 2018–19.

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The line graph shows the most common principal drugs of concern (PDOC) in Australia. In 2018–19, alcohol was the most common PDOC (36% of closed treatment episodes), followed by amphetamines (28%) and cannabis (20%). Between 2009–10 and 2018–19, alcohol as a principal drug of concern decreased (from 48% to 36%), while amphetamines has increased (from 7.2% to 28%).

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The line graph shows the main treatment types for AOD in Australia. In 2018–19, counselling was the most common main treatment type (39% of closed treatment episodes), followed by assessment only (19%), support and case management only (12%) and withdrawal management(11%). Since 2009–10, counselling has remained the most common main treatment type, and the trend has remained stable over time (42% in 2009–10 and 39% in 2018–19).

Visualisation not available for printing