Client numbers and characteristics

In 2016–17, there were 127,404 clients who received treatment from publicly-funded AOD treatment agencies across Australia. This equates to a rate of 600 clients per 100,000 people, or about 1 in 167 people in the general population. Around 96% of clients received treatment for their own drug use, and the remainder received support for someone else's drug use.

Age and sex

Over half of all clients were aged 20–39 (55%), 33% were aged 40 and over and 13% were aged 10–19. The age profile of clients has remained stable over the four years in which client data has been recorded in the AODTS NMDS. Similarly, the median age of clients has remained stable at 33 years.

Consistent with previous years, just under two-thirds (66%) of all clients receiving treatment in 2016–17 were male.

Cultural and linguistic diversity

In 2016–17, despite only comprising 2.7% of the Australian population aged 10 and over, 15% of AODTS clients were Indigenous Australians aged 10 and over. This equates to a rate of 3,313 clients per 100,000 Indigenous Australians, compared with 507 clients per 100,000 non-Indigenous Australians. Indigenous clients were almost 7 times as likely to receive treatment services as non-Indigenous clients.

The proportion of clients receiving AOD treatment services who were Indigenous Australians ranged from 6.3% in Victoria to 70% in the Northern Territory.

The majority (87%) of closed treatment episodes were for clients born in Australia, with the United Kingdom (3%) and New Zealand (3%) being the most common countries of birth for clients born outside Australia. These proportions are generally consistent with the Australian population.

In 2016–17, English was the preferred language of clients in 92% of closed treatment episodes.

Drugs of concern

People may seek AOD treatment services due to the problematic use of one or more drugs. For most people, however, there is one drug that is of most concern for them, and therefore the focus of the treatment they receive. This is referred to as their principal drug of concern. Clients can also report other drugs of concern (referred to as additional drugs of concern).

In 2016–17, the most common principal drugs of concern that led clients to seek treatment were alcohol (32% of all treatment episodes), amphetamines (26%), cannabis (22%) and heroin (5%).

The national patterns in closed treatment episodes for principal drugs of concern that lead clients to seek treatment were similar for Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients, although the proportions for alcohol (35%), amphetamines (27%) and cannabis (25%) for Indigenous clients were slightly higher than for non-Indigenous clients (32%, 25% and 21% respectively).

Across the states and territories, there was some variation in the four most common principal drugs of concern. Alcohol was the most common drug of concern in the Northern Territory (56% of episodes), the Australian Capital Territory (43%), Tasmania (38%), New South Wales (37%) and Victoria (30%); whereas, in South Australia and Western Australia, amphetamines were the most common principal drug of concern (37% and 36% of episodes, respectively). In Queensland, cannabis was the most common principal drug of concern, reported in 33% of episodes.

Nationally, clients seeking treatment for their own drug use received an average of 1.6 treatment episodes and just under half (44%) of clients received treatment for more than one drug of concern.

The proportion of closed treatment episodes where clients were receiving treatment for amphetamines has more than doubled over the last 10 years, from 11% of treatment episodes in 2007–08 to 27% in 2016–17. Between 2012–13 and 2016–17, the number of closed treatment episodes with amphetamines as a principal drug of concern increased by 123% (from 22,265 to 49,670 treatment episodes), while closed treatment episodes where heroin was the principal drug of concern decreased by 22% (from 12,817 to 9,988 treatment episodes).