Illicit drug use
Two-thirds (67%) of prison entrants reported illicit drug use in the 12 months prior to prison entry. Non-Indigenous entrants were more likely than Indigenous entrants to have used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to prison (69% and 60%, respectively). As in the general population, recent illicit drug use was more common among younger entrants, with over three-quarters (76%) of those aged 18–24 having taken illicit drugs in the last 12 months, compared with 53% of those aged 45 and over (Table 1).
More than half (55%) of entrants who had used illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to prison had used more than one type of drug, including 1 in 10 (11%) who had used 4 or more drugs.
Excludes New South Wales as data were not provided for this indicator.
Source: Entrant form, NPHDC 2015.
The most commonly used substances for non-medical purposes in the previous 12 months by prison entrants were:
- methamphetamine (50%)
- cannabis/marijuana (41%)
- analgesics/pain killers (13%)
- tranquillisers/sleeping pills (11%)
- heroin (9%)
- and other analgesics (including opiates/opioids, 8%).
The most commonly used drugs differed slightly for male and female prison entrants: Women were more likely than men to have used analgesics/pain killers (27% and 11%, respectively) and tranquillisers/sleeping pills (26% and 9%).
Use of most commonly-used substances was higher for the youngest entrants (aged 18–24 years) than the oldest entrants (aged at least 45), including methamphetamines (59% to 28%), cannabis (53% to 35%) and ecstasy (11% to 3%). However, older entrants (10–12% of those aged at least 35) more often reported using heroin than the youngest entrants (4%).
Non-Indigenous entrants were more likely than Indigenous entrants to use methamphetamines (54% and 38% respectively), tranquilisers/sleeping pills (12% and 5%), heroin (10% and 6%) and ecstasy (8% and 4%).
See Chapter 10 of The health of Australia's prisoners 2015.