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Alcohol and other drugs facts

What is addiction?

Addiction is a physical or psychological need to do, take or use something, to the point where it could be harmful to you. Addiction is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs - both illicit and prescription - alcohol and nicotine, but it's possible to be addicted to anything.

Whatever a person is addicted to, they can't control how they use it, and they may become dependent on it to get through daily life.

Source: Health Direct

Read more from Health Direct 

Alcohol and other drugs

What is a drug?

A drug is any substance (including alcohol) that, when taken or administered into the body has a physiological effect.

A psychoactive or psychotropic drug affects mental processes and can influence mood, behaviour, cognition and perception.

Why do people use drugs?

People use drugs and alcohol for many reasons; to relax, for enjoyment, to be part of a group, out of curiosity, as a coping mechanism or to minimize physical and/or psychological pain and trauma.

They use drugs for the benefits (perceived and/or experienced), not for the potential harm. This applies to both legal and illegal drugs.

Source: Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Learn more from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Substance abuse in Australia

In 2010, Australia was ranked 19th in the world in terms of per capita consumption of pure alcohol at 10.4 litres per person (age 15+). That same year, the consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in the deaths of 5,554 Australians aged 0–64 and 157,132 hospital admissions.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey:

  • 8 in 10 Australians had consumed at least 1 glass of alcohol in the last 12 months.
  • Among recent drinkers: about 1 in 4 (24%) had been a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2016; about 1 in 6 (17.4%) put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol in the last 12 months; and about 1 in 10 (9%) had injured themselves or someone else because of their drinking in their lifetime.
  • About 1 in 8 Australians had used at least 1 illegal substance in the last 12 months and 1 in 20 had misused a pharmaceutical drug.
  • In 2016, the most commonly used illegal drugs that were used at least once in the past 12 months were cannabis (10.4%), followed by cocaine (2.5%), ecstasy (2.2%) and meth/amphetamines (1.4%). However, when examining the share of Australians using an illegal drug weekly or more often in 2016, meth/amphetamines (which includes ‘ice’) was the second most commonly used illegal drug after cannabis.
  • Most meth/amphetamine users used ‘ice’ as their main form, increasing from 22% of recent meth/ amphetamine users in 2010 to 57% in 2016.

The downside of alcohol

  • Excessive alcohol use may contribute to many personal, social and family problems, as well as financial and legal problems
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause illness, resulting in absenteeism, poor work performance and accidents
  • Alcohol can have a negative effect on your health and lifestyle
  • The risk of road, boating and work-related accidents is increased.

Source: Alcohol and Drug Foundation

More resources

Reach Out - What is addiction?
Alcohol in Australia: Issues and Strategies

Getting help

There are a range of services available for people struggling with substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling, our alcohol and other drugs services may be able to help. 

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