Drugs and alcohol in focus

What’s your poison? Drugs and alcohol continue to be popular with Australians.

How many Australians use illicit drugs? Which illegal drugs are most commonly used? Are we drinking more alcohol now than we were in the past?

For the answers to these and many more questions, arguably the best resource is the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). While the next survey isn’t far away and the last survey was around three years ago, the NDSHS provides the most up to date snapshot of our drinking and drug taking habits. So, let’s take a look at the highlights and the lowlights from the 2016 survey.

Use of drugs and alcohol in Australia

Nearly 24,000 Australians took part in the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. The report was released in September 2017.


  • 8 out of 10 Australians consumed at least one glass of alcohol in the previous 12 months.
  • Of these 8 out of 10, 24% had been a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2016, 17.4% put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol and 9% had injured themselves or someone else because of their drinking in their lifetime.
  • Compared to the 2013 survey, the number of Australians who are drinking alcohol regularly is falling. The drop was mainly driven by male survey participants.
  • Fewer people in the 2016 survey drank in excess of the recommended lifetime risk guidelines (consuming more than 2 standard drinks per day on average).
  • The number of people binge drinking (consuming 5 or more standard drinks on a single occasion) was around the same as in 2013.
  • There was good news in one age group, with the number of 12-17 year olds drinking alcohol dropping. In general, younger Australians are drinking less.
  • However, older Australians appear to be drinking more. The number of people in their 50s consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one drinking occasion rose in 2016.


  • The number of people aged 14 or older who have used an illicit drug on at least one occasion in Australia increased between 2013 and 2016. In fact, there’s been a gradual, but not significant, increase in this figure since 2007.
  • Use of most illegal drugs remained stable and the use of some drugs decreased between 2013 and 2016.
  • In 2016, the use of meth/amphetamines dropped to 1.4%, cocaine was 2.5% (from 2.1% in 2013) and ecstasy 2.2%.
  • The most used illegal drug in the 2016 survey was cannabis, at a little over 10%.
  • Around 4.8% of Australians reported misusing pharmaceutical drugs in the 2016 survey.


What’s your poison? Drugs and alcohol continue to be popular with Australians. Credit John Loo https://bit.ly/33HhshR and Clare Black https://bit.ly/2VMqZS4

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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