Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 20 April 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Jul. 8]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, viewed 8 July 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
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Stimulants are a group of drugs that produce stimulatory effects by increasing nerve transmission in the brain and body (Nielsen & Gisev 2017). Included in this group are:
Recent consumption of meth/amphetamine decreased among people aged 14 and over from 3.4% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2019
Recent cocaine use increased significantly between 2016 (2.5%) and 2019 (4.2%) across all age groups, except 14–19 year olds
Australia had the fourth highest average total stimulant consumption when compared with 29 countries across Europe, North America, Oceania, and South Africa
Methamphetamines accounted for
10% of all
in 2019–20, up from
6.9% in 2015–16.
There has been a rapid increase in the number of deaths involving methamphetamine and other stimulants, with the death rate in 2020 4 times higher than that in 2000 (2.1 deaths compared with 0.5 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).
In 2020–21, amphetamines were the second most common principal drug of concern in closed treatment episodes provided for clients’ own drug use (24%)
View the Meth/amphetamine and other stimulants in Australia fact sheet >
The focus in this section is on the illicit use of meth/amphetamine and other stimulants (Box STIM1).
Data sources on methamphetamine, amphetamine and other psychostimulants contain a variety of terms; in some instances these terms cover similar, but not the same range of drugs. This can be confusing when interpreting results across different data sources.
Below is a description of each term used in these data sources and the types of drugs they encompass:
People who regularly use illicit drugs report that methamphetamine and other stimulants are easy to obtain in Australia.
Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) show that people who inject drugs commonly report it is ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain methamphetamine and other stimulants, specifically:
Similarly, data from the 2021 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) show that most people who use ecstasy and other stimulants report that methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine are ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain (Sutherland et al. 2021a). Findings show that:
Data collection for 2021 took place from April–August for the EDRS and June–July for the IDRS. Due to COVID-19 restrictions being imposed in various jurisdictions during data collection periods for both the IDRS and the EDRS, interviews in 2020 and 2021 were delivered face-to-face as well as via telephone. This change in methodology should be considered when comparing data from the 2020 and 2021 samples relative to previous years.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) collects national illicit drug seizure data annually from federal, state and territory police services, including the number and weight of seizures to inform the Illicit Drug Data Report (IDDR). According to the latest IDDR, in 2019–20, around one-third of national illicit drug seizures (39,204 or 32%) were amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) (including MDMA).
The number of national ATS seizures has increased by 250% over the last decade, with 39,204 seizures in 2019–20, up from 11,212 in 2010–11. In 2019–20, ATS accounted for 33% of the total weight of illicit drugs seized nationally. The total weight of ATS seized nationally has increased 1,175% over the last decade, from 1,009 kilograms in 2010–11 to a record 12,865 kilograms in 2019–20.
The record 34,113 national amphetamines seizures in 2019–20 weighed a record 9,408 kilograms and accounted for 87% of the number and 73% of the weight of ATS seized nationally this reporting period (ACIC 2021a). Research (ACIC 2019b) has shown the impact of seizures on consumption—see Supply reduction – Prohibited substances (ACIC 2021a; tables S1.21 and S1.22).
In 2019–20, there were 1,377 amphetamine-type stimulant (excluding MDMA) detections at the Australian border, weighing 5,272 kilograms. The number of MDMA (ecstasy) detections at the Australian border was 2,308 in 2019–20, while the weight of MDMA detected was 1,291 kilograms. The number of national MDMA seizures was 4,981 in 2019–20, and the total weight of MDMA seized nationally was 3,214 kilograms, accounting for 13% of the number and 25% of the weight of ATS seized nationally (ACIC 2021a).
Over the last decade, the number of cocaine detections at the Australian border increased by 447%, from 486 in 2010–11 to 2,660 in 2019–20. The weight of cocaine detected has increased by 9%, from 701 kilograms in 2010–11 to 763 kilograms in 2019–20 (ACIC 2021a).
The number of national cocaine seizures has increased by 372% over the last decade, from 1,217 in 2010–11 to a record 5,750 in 2019–20. The weight of cocaine seized nationally increased by 138% over the same period, from 662 kilograms in 2010–11 to 1,573 kilograms in 2019–20 (ACIC 2021a).
For related content on meth/amphetamine and other stimulant consumption by region, see also:
There are differences in trends and patterns of consumption in Australia according to the type of stimulant used.
Data collection for the EDRS for 2021 took place from April–August. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in various jurisdictions, interviews were delivered via face-to-face interview and by telephone. This change in methodology should be considered when comparing data from the 2020 and 2021 samples relative to previous years.
Self-reported data on meth/amphetamine consumption in the general Australian population has been declining since it peaked at 3.4% in 2001. There was a substantial decrease in the recent use of meth/amphetamine among people aged 20–29 (from 11.2% in 2001 to 2.4% in 2019), however, there were slight increases for people aged 40 and over (Table S2.44). It is possible that self-report surveys underestimate the true extent of meth/amphetamine use, particularly in the context of the stigmas that exist around its consumption (AIHW 2020).
In 2013, ‘crystal/ice’ replaced powder as the main form of meth/amphetamine used in the previous 12 months. In 2019, this trend continued with 50% of people who used meth/amphetamine reporting that crystal/ice was the main form used in the previous 12 months (AIHW 2020). While overall recent meth/amphetamine use declined between 2013 and 2019, the proportion using crystal/ice remained relatively stable (AIHW 2020).
Participants in the EDRS reported a decrease in the use of crystal methamphetamine in the preceding 6 months (29% in 2012 to 16% in 2021) (Sutherland et al. 2021a) (Table S2.49).
The figure shows the proportion of people who recently used meth/amphetamine in the last 12 months by age group from 2001 to 2019. Between 2001 and 2019, there were decreases for age groups of 14–19, 20–29, and 14 and over who had recently used meth/amphetamine. Over the same period, the proportion of people aged 30–39, and 50 and over who recently used meth/amphetamine remained stable. In 2019, people aged 20–29 (2.4%) and 30–39 (2.0%) were most likely to have recently used meth/amphetamine.
Findings from the 774 participants indicate that when the past 6 months was compared with the previous year:
There was a significant increase in lifetime use of cocaine between 2016 (9%) and 2019 (11.2%) (Table S2.31). This was driven largely by increases for people aged 20–29 (from 13.2% to 19.5%), 40–49 (from 12.0% to 15.3%) and 50 and older (3.4% to 4.3%) (AIHW 2020).
For participants of the EDRS, cocaine was the third most commonly used stimulant drug (after ecstasy and cannabis) with 80% reporting recent use in 2021, an increase from 68% in 2020 and the highest percentage of participants in the study’s history (Sutherland et al. 2021a).
Data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) show that the population-weighted average consumption of stimulant drugs varies based on drug type and geographic area.
Methylamphetamine continued to have the highest population-weighted average consumption of any illicit drug monitored by the program (ACIC 2022). Data from report 15 of the NWDMP indicate that nationally:
The estimated weight of methylamphetamine consumed increased from 8,405 kilograms in 2016–17 to 11,516 kilograms in 2018–19, before declining to 8,838 kilograms in 2020–21 (ACIC 2022, Figure STIM2).
For state and territory data, see the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program reports.
(a) “Average consumption” refers to estimated population-weighted average consumption.
Note: Data are from 58 wastewater treatment sites, covering approximately 57% of the Australian population in 2021.
Source: AIHW. Adapted from NWDMP Report 15.
MDMA consumption is low across the country, relative to other illicit drugs. The estimated weight of MDMA consumed annually in Australia steadily increased from 1,162 kilograms in 2017–18 to 2,630 kilograms in 2019–20 before dropping to 1,231 kilograms in 2020–21. Data from report 15 of the NWDMP indicate that nationally:
Cocaine consumption in Australia steadily increased from 3,057 kilograms in 2016–17 to 5,675 kilograms in 2019–20 before declining to 4,711 kilograms in 2020–21. Data from report 15 of the NWDMP indicate that:
It is important to note that the NWDMP does not measure all drug types and cannabis (the drug found to have the highest self-reported level of recent consumption in the 2019 NDSHS) was not included in the comparison of the highest consumed drugs monitored by the program because a reliable dose figure is not available. For further information, see Box HARM2 and Data quality for the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program.
Data from the 2019 NDSHS showed that:
This figure shows the proportion of recent cocaine use for people aged 14 and over by remoteness area for 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. Recent cocaine use trends differed across all 4 remoteness areas between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, recent cocaine use was more common in Major cities (5%) than in Outer regional and Remote and very remote areas (1.4% and 1.7%, respectively).
View data tables >
The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) recently examined average stimulant consumption (amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA) in Australia compared with 29 countries across Europe, North America, Oceania, and South Africa. In 2019:
When examining each drug type as a proportion of total combined stimulant consumption:
Poly drug use is defined as the use of more than 1 illicit drug or licit drug in the previous 12 months. In 2019, the NDSHS showed that only 8.1% of people who reported using meth/amphetamine in the last 12 months said they did not use any other illicit drug. The most common other drugs concurrently used were cannabis (78%) and cocaine (57%). More than three-quarters exceeded the alcohol single occasion risk guideline at least monthly (76%) and over half (54%) exceeded the lifetime risk guideline (Table S2.68).
People who reported recent use of ecstasy and cocaine also reported concurrent use of cannabis (77% and 69%, respectively) and 8 in 10 exceeded the alcohol single occasion risk guideline at least monthly (83% and 82%, respectively).
Data on alcohol and other drug-related ambulance attendances are sourced from the National Ambulance Surveillance System for Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse and Overdose. Data for 2020 are currently available for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Data are presented for 4 snapshot months per year, specifically March, June, September and December. Please see the data quality statement for further information.
The proportion of meth/amphetamine-related ambulance attendances where multiple drugs were consumed ranged from 30% of attendances in Queensland to 44% of attendances in Victoria (Table S2.81).
For related content on meth/amphetamine and other stimulant impacts and harms, see also:
The short and long-term effects associated with the use of methamphetamine and other stimulants are provided in Table STIM1.
Methamphetamine (includes powder, base and crystal/ice)
Source: Adapted from ACIC 2019a; Darke, Kaye & Duflou 2017; NSW Ministry of Health 2017.
The Australian Burden of Disease Study, 2018, found that amphetamine use was responsible for 0.7% of the total burden of disease and injuries in Australia in 2018 and 24% of the total burden due to illicit drug use (AIHW 2021b) (Table S2.69).
Of the burden due to amphetamine use, drug use disorder (excluding alcohol) contributed 32%, poisoning 17% and suicide and self-inflicted injuries 5.4%. Other contributors to the burden due to amphetamine use included road traffic injuries— motor vehicle occupants and motorcyclists (3.0% each) (AIHW 2021b).
Cocaine use contributed 0.3% of the total burden of disease and injuries in 2018 and 10.9% of the total burden due to illicit drug use (Table S2.69). Of the burden due to cocaine use, suicide and self-inflicted injuries accounted for 6.4% and drug use disorder (excluding alcohol) 10.6% (AIHW 2021b).
Data on alcohol and other drug-related ambulance attendances are sourced from the National Ambulance Surveillance System for Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse and Overdose.
In 2020, for meth/amphetamine-related ambulance attendances (including crystal methamphetamine):
The characteristics of meth/amphetamine-related ambulance attendances varied by region in 2020:
In Queensland, similar rates were reported in metropolitan and regional areas (26.5 per 100,000 population metropolitan and 26.2 regional).
Drug-related hospitalisations are defined as hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis relating to a substance use disorder or direct harm relating to use of selected substances (AIHW 2018). In 2019–20, methamphetamines accounted for 1 in 10 (10.0%) drug-related hospitalisations. Less than 1% (0.9%) of drug-related hospitalisations were for cocaine (Table S1.8b).
AIHW analysis of the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD) showed an increase in the number of hospitalisations related to methamphetamines and cocaine in recent years.
Similarly, analysis by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) showed that, taking into account population growth and aging, the rate of cocaine-related hospitalisations increased almost 6-fold between 2010–11 (0.8 per 100,000 population) and 2018–19 (4.7 per 100,000 population) (Man et al. 2021).
In 2019–20, over 2 in 3 (69%) methamphetamine-related hospitalisations occurred in Major cities. In Australia, the rates of hospitalisations for methamphetamines and cocaine are typically higher in Major cities and Regional areas than in Remote or very remote areas (Man et al. 2021). AIHW analysis of the NHMD showed that, in 2019–20:
Drug-induced deaths are determined by toxicology and pathology reports and are defined as those deaths that can be directly attributable to drug use. This includes deaths due to acute toxicity (for example, drug overdose) and chronic use (for example, drug-induced cardiac conditions) (ABS 2021).
The rate of drug-induced deaths related to methamphetamine and other stimulants has increased rapidly in recent years.
See also Health impacts: Drug-induced deaths for more information.
The 2020–21 Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) Early Insights report shows that amphetamines were the principal drug of concern in 24% of treatment episodes provided for clients’ own drug use, while cocaine and MDMA were the principal drug of concern in 1.5% of episodes (AIHW 2022).
These are similar proportions to 2019–20 (28% of closed treatment episodes for amphetamines and 1.5% for cocaine and MDMA) (AIHW 2021a).
Data collected for the AODTS NMDS are released twice each year—an Early Insights report in April and a detailed report mid year. Detailed information about closed treatment episodes for stimulants will be updated in July 2022.
Data from the AIHW Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) for amphetamines correspond to the Australian Standard Classification of Drugs of Concern (ASCDC) code for the general ‘amphetamines’ classification, in which methamphetamine is a sub-classification. Specific coding for methamphetamine episodes have not previously been available due to the nature of the coding structure. This has improved over time, due to improved workforce training and new system updates (AIHW 2021).
The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS) provides information on treatment provided to clients by publicly funded AOD treatment services, including government and non-government organisations. Data from the AODTS NMDS showed that amphetamines were the 2nd most common principal drug of concern in closed treatment episodes provided to clients in 2019–20. Amphetamines were the principal drug of concern in 28% of closed treatment episodes for clients’ own drug use—the same proportion as 2018–19 (Figure STIM4). Almost 4 in 5 (78%) amphetamine treatment episodes were for methamphetamine (AIHW 2021a).
In 2019–20, where amphetamines were the principal drug of concern:
Source: AIHW. Supplementary tables S2.76, S2.78 and S2.80.
In 2016–17, where the principal drug of concern was amphetamines, the proportion of people living in Regional and remote areas who travelled 1 hour or longer to treatment services was higher than in Major cities (31% compared with 10%) (AIHW 2019).
In 2019–20, ecstasy was the principal drug of concern in less than 1% (0.6%) of closed treatment episodes provided for clients’ own drug use (Table S2.76). Treatment episodes for ecstasy remained relatively stable over the 10-year period to 2019–20.
In 2019–20, where ecstasy was the principal drug of concern:
In 2019–20, cocaine was the principal drug of concern in 1% of closed treatment episodes provided for clients’ own drug use (Table S2.76). The proportion of treatment episodes for cocaine has remained low over the 10-year period to 2019–20, but the number of episodes increased by over 300% from 2010–11 (501 episodes) to 2019–20 (2,086 episodes) (AIHW 2021a).
In 2019–20, where cocaine was the principal drug of concern:
For related content on at-risk groups, see:
The use of meth/amphetamine and other stimulants can be disproportionately higher for specific population groups.
The NDSHS found that between 2016 and 2019, more people associated meth/amphetamine with a drug problem (46% compared with 49%) and thought it caused the most deaths (19.2% compared with 20%)(tables S2.36 and S2.70). Meth/amphetamine was reported to be the drug of most concern to the community by 2 in 5 (40%) people (Table S2.37).
In April 2015, the Australian Government established a National Ice Taskforce, to provide advice on the development of a National Ice Action Strategy (NIAS).
The objectives of the NIAS are to ensure that:
ACIC (Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission) 2019. Methylamphetamine supply reduction—measures of effectiveness. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 14 October 2019.
ACIC 2020. National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report 10. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 30 June 2020.
ACIC 2021. Illicit Drug Data Report 2019–2020. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 25 October 2021.
ACIC 2022. National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report 15. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 21 March 2022.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Drug related hospitalisations. Cat. no. HSE 220. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 18 August 2021.
AIHW 2019. Alcohol and other drug use in regional and remote Australia: consumption, harms and access to treatment, 2016–17. Cat. no. HSE 212. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 15 March 2019.
AIHW 2020. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Drug statistics series no. 32. Cat. no. PHE 270. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 16 July 2020.
AIHW 2021a. Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia annual report. Cat. no. HSE 250. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 16 July 2021.
AIHW 2021b. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2018, AIHW, Australian Government. doi:10.25816/5ps1-j259
Chrzanowska A, Man A, Sutherland R, Degenhardt L & Peacock A 2021. Trends in drug-induced deaths in Australia, 1997–2019. Drug Trends Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. Viewed 23 April 2021.
Darke S, Kaye S & Duflou J 2017. Rates, characteristics and circumstances of methamphetamine-related death in Australia: a national 7-year study. Addiction 112: 2191-2201.
DoH (Department of Health) 2017. National ice action strategy. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 29 November 2017.
Man N, Chrzanowska A, Sutherland R, Degenhardt L & Peacock A 2021. Trends in drug-related hospitalisations in Australia, 1999–2019. Drug Trends Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. Viewed 13 August 2021.
Nielsen S & Gisev N 2017. Drug pharmacology and pharmacotherapy treatments. In Ritter, King and Lee (eds). Drug use in Australian society. 2nd edn. Oxford University Press.
NSW Ministry of Health 2017. A quick guide to drugs & alcohol, 3rd edn. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. Viewed 24 June 2021.
Peacock A, Uporova J, Karlsson A, Gibbs D, Swanton R, Kelly G et al. 2019. Australian Drug Trends 2019: Key findings from the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Interviews. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre UNSW.
Sutherland R, Peacock A, Karlsson A, Uporova J, Price O, Chandrasena U, Swanton R, Gibbs D, Bruno R, Wilson Y, Dietze P, Hall C, Eddy S, Lenton S, Grigg J, Salom C, Daly C, Thomas N, Juckel J, Degenhardt L, & Farrell M (2021a). Australian Drug Trends 2021: Key Findings from the National Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) Interviews. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.
Sutherland R, Uporova J, Chandrasena U, Price O, Karlsson A, Gibbs D, Swanton R, Bruno R, Dietze P, Lenton S, Salom C, Daly C, Thomas N, Juckel J, Agramunt S, Wilson Y, Woods E, Moon C, Degenhardt L, Farrell M and Peacock A. 2021b. Australian Drug Trends 2021: Key Findings from the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Interviews. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.
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