Page last updated June 9, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

41. Lost Productivity Due to Substance Use in Australia

"Of the total net production costs of $13.2 billion, tobacco accounted for by far the largest share (60.7 per cent or $8.0 billion). Alcohol represented 26.8 per cent ($3.5 billion) and illicit drugs 12.5 per cent ($1.6 billion). Of the gross production costs of $22.9 billion, workforce losses represented 47.9 per cent ($11.0 billion) and household losses 52.1 per cent ($11.9 billion)."

Collins, David J. and Lapsley, Helen M., The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05, Monograph 64, Report prepared for the Department of Health and Ageing, 2008, p. 58.

42. Public Health Impact of Marijuana Use

"The public health burden of cannabis use is probably modest compared with that of alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs. A recent Australian study96 estimated that cannabis use caused 0·2% of total disease burden in Australia—a country with one of the highest reported rates of cannabis use. Cannabis accounted for 10% of the burden attributable to all illicit drugs (including heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines). It also accounted for around 10% of the proportion of disease burden attributed to alcohol (2·3%), but only 2·5% of that attributable to tobacco (7·8%)."

Hall, Wayne and Degenhardt, Louise, "Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use," The Lancet (London, United Kingdom: October 17, 2009) Vol. 374, p. 1389.

43. The Three Pillars Approach to Drug Control Policy

"The harms to individuals, families, communities and Australian society as a whole from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are well known. For example, the cost to Australian society of alcohol, tobacco and other drug misuse1 in the financial year 2004–05 was estimated at $56.1 billion, including costs to the health and hospitals system, lost workplace productivity, road accidents and crime."
"The overarching approach of harm minimisation, which has guided the National Drug Strategy since its inception in 1985, will continue through 2010–2015. This encompasses the three pillars of:
"• demand reduction to prevent the uptake and/or delay the onset of use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; reduce the misuse of alcohol and the use of tobacco and other drugs in the community; and support people to recover from dependence and reintegrate with the community
"• supply reduction to prevent, stop, disrupt or otherwise reduce the production and supply of illegal drugs; and control, manage and/or regulate the availability of legal drugs
"• harm reduction to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
"The three pillars apply across all drug types but in different ways, for example, depending on whether the drugs being used are legal or illegal. The approaches in the three pillars will be applied with sensitivity to age and stage of life, disadvantaged populations, and settings of use and intervention."

Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015: A framework for action on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, p. ii.

44. Policy Successes

"Since the inception of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse in 1985, Australia has had major successes in reducing the prevalence of, and harms from, drug use.
"&#149 Far fewer Australians are smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke as a result of comprehensive public health approaches, including bans on advertising, bans on smoking in enclosed public spaces and significant investments in public education and media campaigns. The daily smoking rate among Australians aged 14 years and over has fallen from 30.5 per cent in 1988 to 16.6 per cent in 2007.
"• Far fewer people are using illegal drugs. The 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey shows the proportion of people reporting recent use of illegal drugs fell from 22 per cent in 1998 to 13.4 per cent in 2007. The recent use of cannabis—the most commonly used illegal drug—fell from 17.9 per cent in 1998 to 9.1 per cent in 2007.
"• Law enforcement agencies have continued to be effective in detecting and seizing illegal drugs to disrupt supply. The number of illegal drug seizures increased by almost 70 per cent between 1999–2000 and 2008–09, and the collective weight of seizures increased by about 116 per cent.
"• The heroin shortage that began in 2000 has been sustained, with heroin use remaining at low levels since then.
• Harms associated with injecting drug use have also been reduced. It is estimated that from 2000–2009 needle and syringe programs, which ensure the safe supply and disposal of syringes to injecting drug users, have directly averted over 32 000 new HIV infections and nearly 97 000 hepatitis C infections."

Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015: A framework for action on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, p. 4.

45. Political Support for Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) in Australia

"Australia’s first NSP was trialled in New South Wales in 1986 with the provision of NSP services becoming New South Wales Government policy in early 1987 and the remaining states and territories implementing NSPs soon after via primary, secondary and pharmacy outlets (Dolan et al., 2005). This occurred following the discovery of HIV and the potential threat that this virus posed to the Australian community. The establishment of NSPs throughout Australia would not have been possible without bipartisan political support which continues to be an important element in the continuing existence and operation of NSPs."

Victorian Department of Human Services (2010), National needle and syringe programs strategic framework 2010-2014, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 14.

46. Evidence-Based and Evidence-Informed Practices in Australian Drug Policy

"Commitment to evidence
"An important aspect of Australia’s approach to drug use has been the commitment to a comprehensive evidence base. Under the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015 there is a continued commitment to evidence-based and evidence-informed practice. Evidence-based practice means using approaches which have proven to be effective. For example, the continuing provision of detoxification, pharmacological therapies including opioid substitution therapies and cognitive behavioural therapies for alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment is based on an extensive body of evidence in Australia and internationally.
"Evidence-informed practice involves integrating existing evidence with professional expertise to develop optimal approaches, including new or innovative approaches in a given situation. The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015 includes a commitment to innovation and trialling new approaches. For example, the introduction of the Illicit Drug Diversion Initiative (IDDI) supported police-based diversion in early intervention and prevention programs before there was comprehensive evidence supporting this approach. The success of IDDI was a catalyst for its expansion into court-based diversion and treatment at correctional centres. IDDI demonstrates that where there is little evidence, leadership is needed to support innovation. Allowing room for the development of such creative approaches to be developed in the future will require new evidence to be collected so that the impact and quality of new interventions is well-understood."

Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015: A framework for action on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, p. 21.

47. Social Determinants and Substance Use

"• There is strong evidence of an association between social determinants—such as unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and family breakdown—and drug use. Socio-economic status has been associated with drug-related harms such as foetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol and other drug disorders, hospital admissions due to diagnoses related to alcoholism, lung cancer, drug overdoses and alcohol-related assault. In the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey the highest prevalence of recent illegal drug use was reported by unemployed people—23.3 per cent compared with 13.4 per cent of the general population. Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among homeless people is common. One study estimated the overall 12-month prevalence of harmful alcohol use for homeless people in Sydney at 41 per cent and the prevalence of drug use at 36 per cent. Family factors—including poor parent–child relationships, family disorganisation, chaos and stress and family conflict and marital discord with verbal, physical or sexual abuse—also have a strong association with drug use. There are a number of strong protective factors that guard against problematic alcohol and other drug use. These include having a job, a stable family life and stable housing. These factors can be important in preventing or overcoming drug-related problems."

Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015: A framework for action on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, p. 6.

48. Australia - Evaluation

"The only comprehensive evaluation of a medically supervised injecting centre was conducted during the 18 month trial of the Sydney centre. Staff intervened in 329 overdoses over one year with an estimate of at least four lives saved a year. There was no increase in reported hepatitis B or C infections in the area that the medically supervised injecting centre served despite an increase elsewhere in Sydney.
"The report described a decreased frequency of injecting related problems among clients. Half the centre's clients reported that their injecting practices had become less risky since using the centre. Furthermore, clients were more likely than other injectors to report that they had started treatment for their drug use; 11% of clients were referred to treatment for drug dependence. An economic evaluation of deaths averted by intervention of the medically supervised injecting centre showed that costs were comparable to those of other widely accepted public health measures.
"The centre also had benefits for the local community. Residents and business respondents reported fewer sightings of public injection and syringes discarded in public places, and syringe counts in the vicinity of the centre were lower after it opened than before. In addition, there was no evidence of an increased number of theft and robbery incidents in the area. Acceptance of the medically supervised injecting centre increased among both businesses and residents over the study period."

Wright, Nat M.J., Charlotte N.E. Tompkins, "Supervised Injecting Centres," British Medical Journal, Vol. 328, Jan. 10, 2004, p. 100.

49. Heroin-Assisted Treatment and Crime Reduction

"Overall, results indicate that heroin prescription is a very promising approach in reducing any type of drug related crime across all relevant groups analyzed. It affects property crime as well as drug dealing and even use/possession of drugs other than heroin. These results suggest that heroin maintenance does not only have an impact by reducing the acquisitive pressure of treated patients, but also seems to have a broader effect on their entire life-style by stabilizing their daily routine through the commitment to attend the prescription center twice or three times a day, by giving them the opportunity for psychosocial support, and by keeping them away from open drug scenes."

Ribeaud, Denis, "Long-term Impacts of the Swiss Heroin Prescription Trials on Crime of Treated Heroin Users," Journal of Drug Issues (Talahassee, FL: University of Florida, Winter 2004), p. 188.

50. Prescription Injectable Opiates

"Prescribing injectable opiates is one of many options in a range of treatments for opiate-dependent drug users. In showing that it attracts and retains long term resistant opiate-dependent drug users in treatment and that it is associated with significant and sustained reductions in drug use and improvements in health and social status, our findings endorse the view that it is a feasible option."

Metrebian, Nicky, Shanahan, William, Wells, Brian, and Stimson, Gerry, "Feasibility of prescribing injectable heroin and methadone to opiate-dependent drug users; associated health gains and harm reductions," The Medical Journal of Australia (Sydney, Australia: June 1998) Volume 168, Issue 12, pp. 596-600.

51. Substance Use, Social Support, and Child Protection Services

"The results of this study are important for the child protection field. They show that, rather than severity of substance use being associated with mothers’ involvement with the child protection system, other factors are of greater importance. Of particular interest was the finding that having greater social support, particularly from parents, significantly reduced the likelihood of being involved with the child protection system."

Taplin, Stephanie and Mattick, Richard P., "Child Protection and Mothers in Substance Abuse Treatment," National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales, November 2011), p. 9.

52. Heroin-Assisted Treatment and Retention in Treatment

"These pilot study findings showed that opiate-dependent injecting drug users with long injecting careers (most started between 1970 and 1982) and for whom opiate treatment had failed multiple times previously were attracted into and retained by therapy with injectable opiates."

Metrebian, Nicky, Shanahan, William, Wells, Brian, and Stimson, Gerry, "Feasibility of prescribing injectable heroin and methadone to opiate-dependent drug users; associated health gains and harm reductions," The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA 1998; 168: 596-600).