Current Use and Trends of Drug Use in Australia

Overall drug use in Australia has stabilised at current levels in recent years however some commonly used illicit drugs are on the decline.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) has reported figures that show the number of young people (those under the age of 30), who are using illicit drugs has decreased with less illicit drug users in 2016 when compared to 2001. While this is a positive trend, the older age groups of people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have shown little change which has maintained the current overall level of usage.

Drug Use Among Young People

Overall trends for young people have shown a decrease however the number of people aged 14 or older using illicit drugs in Australia is increasing. 2016 reported figures showed that 43% of Australians aged 14 or older had used an illicit drug in their lifetime with 15.6% within that age group using in the last 12 months at the time of reporting.

Overall the use of most illegal drugs remained stable and some drugs decreased over the last 3 years

Where declines in usage were seen was in meth/amphetamine which dropped from 2.1% to 1.4% usage and hallucinogens which dropped from 1.3% to 1%. Synthetic cannabinoid use also decreased significantly from 1.3% to 0.3% from 2013 to 2016.

Another commonly used drug which is, unfortunately, increasing in its prevalence is cocaine. Reported use has increased from 1% in 2004 to 2.5% in 2016, this makes it now the most commonly used illegal drug in 2016 after cannabis.

Drug Use Among Other Age Groups

As an overall trend, there was no significant change in the use of any illicit drug but there have been some observable trends among certain age groups.

The NDSHS figures reported that more people in their 40s used illicit drugs in 2016 when compared to 2013 increasing overall to 16.2% from 13.6% with a particular emphasis on males in their 40s who’s usage increased from 15.4% to 20%.

Figures also showed a significant increase in illicit drug use among females aged 18 or older when compared to 2013 mainly driven by an increase among females in their 30s.

Generally, people under 40 reported a decrease in the recent use of illicit drugs since 2001 while people over 40 had reported increases. The largest increase was seen in people aged 60 or over which increased from 3.9% in 2001 to 6.9% in 2016, the main drug reported here was the misuse of pharmaceuticals.

The Importance of Drug Testing

With global trends showing that drug use remains an issue in every nation, it is vitally important that the required technology is available to drug analysis laboratories to ensure the correct reporting of relevant drug use.

Randox Toxicology provides global toxicology laboratories with patented Biochip Array Technology that allows for rapid and accurate drug-detection from a single sample. Based on ELISA principles, the Biochip is a solid-state device with discrete test sites onto which antibodies specific to different drug compounds are immobilised and stabilised. Competitive chemiluminescent immunoassays are then employed, offering a highly sensitive screen.

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