Alcohol: client demographics and treatment

In 2021–22, alcohol was reported as a drug of concern (either principal or additional) in almost half of all treatment episodes (49% or 102,382 episodes) (Table Drg.5).

Alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern:

  • in over 2 in 5 treatment episodes (42% or 87,300 episodes) in 2021–22 (Table Drg.5)
  • it has remained the most common PDOC since 2012–13
  • with an overall increase in the number of alcohol-related treatment episodes (from 63,700 to 87,300 episodes), between 2012–13 and 2021–22
  • the proportion of treatment episodes for alcohol in relation to all other drugs of concern fluctuated, falling from 41% in 2012–13 to 32% in 2015–16, before rising in 2021–22 (Table Drg.1).

In 2021–22, at least 1 additional drug of concern was recorded in over 1 in 5 alcohol-related treatment episodes (22% or 19,500 episodes) (Table Drg.2). The most common additional drugs of concern were cannabis (37% or 10,300 episodes), nicotine (27% or 7,400 episodes) and amphetamines (17% or 4,800 episodes) (Table Drg.3). These drugs may not have been the subject of any treatment in the episode.

For information on alcohol use and harms, please see:

Client demographics

In 2021–22, 48,400 clients received treatment for their own use of alcohol as a principal drug of concern. Of these clients:

  • 3 in 5 were male (61% of clients) (Table SC.9).
  • 1 in 2 were aged either 30–39 (25% of clients) or 40–49 (26%) (Table SC.10). This was consistent for both males and females (Figure ALCOHOL 1).
  • One in 6 were Indigenous Australians (17% or 8,000 clients) (Table SC.11). This represents a rate of 1,255 Indigenous clients per 100,000 population (crude rate) (Table SCR.26).

Figure ALCOHOL 1: Clients with alcohol as the principal drug of concern, by sex and age group, 2021–22

The butterfly bar chart shows that in 2021–22, male clients receiving treatment for alcohol as the principal drug of concern were most likely to be aged 40–49 (26.1%) or 30–39 (25.3%). This was similar for female clients (26.7% aged 40–49 and 24.2% aged 30–39).


In 2021–22, 87,334 treatment episodes were provided to clients for alcohol as the principal drug of concern (Table Drg.5).

Among alcohol-related treatment episodes in 2021–22:

  • The most common source of referral was self or family (41% or 36,000 episodes), followed by health services (39%) (Figure ALCOHOL 2; Table Drg.13).
    • Across the 10 years to 2021–22, referral from a health service increased while referral from the criminal justice system (diversion) fell.
  • The most common main treatment type was counselling (35% or 30,800 episodes), followed by assessment only (22%) and withdrawal management (14%) (Figure ALCOHOL 2, Table Drg.18).
    • Counselling, withdrawal management and assessment only remained the most common treatment types across the 10 years to 2021–22, although the proportion of episodes for each treatment type varied over time.
  • Almost 2 in 3 episodes were provided in non-residential treatment settings (66% of episodes). A further 17% were provided in residential treatment settings and 6.8% were provided in outreach settings (Table Drg.20).
  • The median duration of treatment episodes was just over 4 weeks (29 days) (Table Drg.21). One in 3 (34%) treatment episodes lasted 2 days to 1 month, and 26% lasted 1–3 months (Table OV.12).
  • Over 3 in 5 episodes ended with a planned completion (62% of episodes), while 20% ended unexpectedly (that is, the client ceased to participate against advice, without notice or due to non-compliance) (Figure ALCOHOL 2; Table Drg.19).

Figure ALCOHOL 2: Treatment episodes with alcohol as the principal drug of concern, by main treatment type, reason for cessation or source of referral, 2012–13 to 2021–22

The line graph shows that counselling was the most common main treatment type among treatment episodes for alcohol across the 10 years to 2021–22, accounting for 30,832 episodes in 2021–22. Withdrawal management and assessment only remained the second and third most common main treatment types across the period. Filters allow the user to view data as the number or proportion (per cent) of episodes for main treatment type, reason for cessation or source of referral.