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Statistics

Below is a brief outline of some important Australian statistics on drugs. Find more statistics:

 

Statistics by drug:

 

Statistics by topic:

Alcohol

National

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia.

  • 86.2% of Australians aged 14 years and over have drunk alcohol one or more times in their lives1.
  • 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis1.
  • The age group with the greatest number of Australians who drink daily is 70+ years1.
  • Around 1 in 5 (18.2%) Australians over 14 drink at levels that put them at risk of alcohol-related harm over their lifetime1.
  • Around 1 in 6 (15.6%) people aged 12 years or older had consumed 11 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion in the past 12 months1.
  • 1 in 4 women drink alcohol while pregnant, even though the Australian alcohol guidelines recommend not drinking during this time1.
  • $7b is generated by alcohol-related tax. But alcohol costs society $15.3b annually3.
  • Alcohol caused more than twice as many deaths (3,494) than road accidents (1,600) in 20054.
  • 1 in 10 workers say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s use of alcohol5,6.

Young People

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) have their first full serve of alcohol at 15.7 years on average1.
  • 72.3% of 12–17 year olds have not consumed alcohol in the last 12 months1.
  • 17% of 15–18 years old say they had sex when drunk which they later regretted7.
  • Alcohol contributes to the 3 major causes of teen death: injury, homicide and suicide8.
  • Friends or acquaintances are the most likely sources of alcohol for 12–17 year olds (45.4%), with parents being the second most likely source (29.3%)1.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Victoria

  • On average, there were 34 alcohol-related ambulance attendances in metropolitan Melbourne per day in 2013/14 (11% increase from 2011/12), and 11 per day in regional Victoria (8% increase). The average age of these patients was 40 years10.
  • Alcohol was the reason for the majority of drug-related ambulance attendances, with 12,482 attendances in 2013/14 compared to 3,021 for benzodiazepines, 1,869 for heroin, 1,714 for non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol) and 1,237 for crystal methamphetamine (ice)10.


Get the facts on alcohol.

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Analgesics

National

  • 7.7% of Australians aged 14 years and older have used analgesics for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life1.
  • 3.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes in the previous 12 months1.

Young People

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try analgesics for non-medical purposes at 15.0 years on average1.
  • Analgesics are the most commonly used drug (licit or illicit) among 12–17 year olds. By the age of 13, 95% of this age group have used analgesics (mostly for headaches and/or cold and flu symptoms)9.
  • 4% of 12-17 year olds take analgesics from home without permission and 3% buy them9.

Victoria

  • The number of opioid analgesic ambulance attendances in 2013/2014 increased in comparison with the previous year – 3.5% increase in metropolitan Melbourne and 4.5% in regional Victoria. There was also an increase for non-opioid analgesics – 8.1% in metropolitan Melbourne and 3.1% in regional Victoria10.
  • Non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol) are the third most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol and benziodiazepines10.


Get the facts on aspirin, codeine, ibuprofen and paracetamol.

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Benzodiazepines

National

  • 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life1.
  • 1.6% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try tranquilisers for non-medical purposes at 18.2 years on average1.

Victoria

  • Benzodiazepines contributed to 56 deaths in Victoria in 2010, representing almost 17% of the total number of drug-related deaths investigated by the Coroners Court of Victoria in that year11.
  • In 2013/14 there was an average of 8 ambulances attendances per day for benzodiazepines in metropolitan Melbourne, and 2 per day in regional Victoria. Both represent small increases from the previous year. The average age of the patients involved in these attendances was 38–40 years10.
  • Benzodiazepines are the second most common drug involved in ambulance attendances in Victoria, after alcohol10.


Get the facts on benzodiazepines.

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Betel nut

Around 10–20% of the world's population chews betel nut in some form. This makes it the 4th most widely-used psychoactive substance, after nicotine, alcohol and caffeine12,13.

Get the facts on betel nut.

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Caffeine (including energy drinks)

  • In Australia between 2004 and 2010, there were 297 calls to the NSW Poisons Information Line concerning toxicity from caffeinated energy drinks. The most commonly reported symptoms included palpitations/tachycardia, tremors, shaking, agitation and restlessness.27

Consumption

  • 1 billion cups of coffee per year were consumed at cafés, restaurants and other outlets in Australia in 200626.
  • Consumption of coffee has doubled over the past 30 years from 1.2 to 2.4 kg per person in Australia26.
  • Global coffee consumption increased in 2010, with consumers spending a total of $10.7 billion, which is equivalent to 2.4 kilograms of coffee per person, per year28.
  • Sales of energy drinks in Australia and New Zealand increased from 34.5 million litres in 2001 to 155.6 litres in 201029.

 

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Cannabis

National

  • 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life1.
  • 10.2% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try cannabis at 16.7 years on average1.
  • 14.8% of 12–17 year olds have tried cannabis – it is the most commonly used illicit drug among this age group9.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Victoria

  • There were 4.4 cannabis-related ambulance attendances in metropolitan Melbourne per day and 1.7 in regional Victoria in 2013/14. The average age of the patients involved in these attendances was 30 years10.
  • Ambulance attendances for cannabis continue to rise, with more than double in 2013/14 than in 2003/04 in metropolitan Melbourne10.


Get the facts on cannabis.

Take part in the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre's Cannabis Diversion Survey.

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Cocaine

National

  • 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life1.
  • 2.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try cocaine at 19.2 years on average1.
  • The 1.7% of 12-17 year olds who take cocaine have only used it once or twice9.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Get the facts on cocaine.

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Ecstasy

National

  • 10.9% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used ecstasy one or more times in their life1.
  • 2.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used ecstasy in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try ecstasy at 18.2 years on average1.
  • 2.7% of 12-17 year olds have tried ecstasy9.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Victoria

  • In both metropolitan and regional Victoria, there was an over 40% increase in the number of ambulance attendances where the patient believed they had taken ecstasy between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
  • 55% ecstasy related attendances also involved alcohol in 2013/14.
  • 78% of ecstasy related attendances resulted in hospital transportation in 2013/14, which could indicate that harmful substances were included in ecstasy pills10.


Get the facts on ecstasy.

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Fentanyl

National

  • In Australia between 2000-2011, one hundred and thirty-six fentanyl-related deaths were recorded.
  • 54% had a history of injecting drug use and 95% had injected fentanyl at the time of death.
  • Deaths were primarily among Australians aged under 47 years.32

 

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GHB

National

  • 0.9% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used GHB one or more times in their life1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try GHB at 20.1 years on average1.

Victoria

  • The number of GHB ambulance attendances in 2013/14 increased by 7.4% (up to 626 attendances) in metropolitan Melbourne and 3% (59) in regional Victoria from the previous year10.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Get the facts on GHB.

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Hallucinogens

National

  • 9.4% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used hallucinogens one or more times in their life1.
  • 1.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used hallucinogens in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try hallucinogens at 18.5 years on average1.
  • 3% of 12-17 year olds have tried hallucinogens such as LSD9.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Get the facts on hallucinogens.

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Heroin

National

  • 1.2% of Australians aged 14 years and older have used heroin one or more times in their life1.
  • 0.1% of Australians aged 14 years and older have used heroin in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try heroin at 16.9 years on average1.
  • 1.6% of 12-17 year olds have tried heroin9.

Victoria

  • There were 5.1 ambulance attendances related to heroin in metropolitan Melbourne and 0.28 in regional Victoria per day in 2013/14 (these numbers include non-fatal overdose)10.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Get the facts on heroin.

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Inhalants

National

  • 3.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used inhalants one or more times in their life1.
  • 0.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used inhalants in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try inhalants at 16.9 years on average1.
  • Around 1 in 5 12-17 year olds have deliberately sniffed inhalants at least once9.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Victoria

  • In 2013/14 the number of ambulance attendances related to inhalant use in metropolitan Melbourne rose by 13% - from 122 in 2012/13 to 138 in 2013/14. Attendances in regional Victoria decreased by 22% - from 31 to 2410.

Get the facts on inhalants. 

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Kava

  • In 2002, 3.4% of Australian aboriginals aged 15 years or over, living in non-remote areas had used kava25.

 

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Ketamine

  • 1.7% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used ketamine one or more times in their life1.
  • 0.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used ketamine in the previous 12 months1.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try ketamine at 19.4 years on average1.


Get the facts on ketamine.

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Khat

It is unclear how much khat is used in Australia, however in 1993 it was estimated that 700–1000 people in Melbourne enjoyed khat chewing.

Khat chewing is predominantly a male activity, though women are occasionally involved and, according to some reports, this is increasingly the case in Australia. For example, some women who did not chew khat in their former homeland began to use khat after their arrival in Australia.24

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Meth/amphetamine (including ice)

National

  • 7.0% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used meth/amphetamines one or more times in their life1.
  • 2.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used meth/amphetamines in the previous 12 months. Of these people, 50.4% report crystal or ice as main form of the drug used.1

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try meth/amphetamines at 18.6 years on average1.
  • 2.9% of 12-17 year olds have tried amphetamines9.


View What 12–17 year olds are really using, an infographic about alcohol and drug use by young people in Australia.

Victoria

  • The daily number of all amphetamine-related ambulance attendances in 2013/14 increased significantly compared with the previous year – 23% increase in metropolitan Melbourne and a 27.2% in regional Victoria. This is attributed to an increase in the number of attendances relating to crystal methamphetamine (ice)10.
  • In metropolitan Melbourne there was an 10.8% increase in the number of attendances for ice (crystal methamphetamine) between 2012/13 and 2013/14, up to an average of 3.4 per day. In regional Victoria, the increase was 27.7% up to 0.80 per day10.
  • Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol)10.


Get the facts on amphetamines.

Get the facts on ice.

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Naloxone

Naloxone successfully reversed 23 opioid overdoses between 2011 and 2013, during a peer administration trial in Canberra14.

In Australia in 2009, there were 563 accidental deaths attributed to opioids among people aged 15-54 years. In the over 55 age group, there were 70 deaths. Many of these deaths were due to multiple drugs being taken including prescription opioids15.

Get the facts on naloxone.

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New psychoactive substances

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are being developed at an unprecedented rate. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol currently monitors more than 450 NPS, which is close to double the number of substances controlled under the United Nations international drug control conventions. More than half of these have been reported in the last three years 16.

National

  • 0.4% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used new psychoactive substances at some stage in their lives1.
  • 0.4% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used new psychoactive substances in the previous 12 months1.

United Kingdom

In the UK, there has been an increasing trend in NPS deaths with sharp increases between 2011 and 2012 (29 to 52 deaths). The number of deaths involving NPS rose again in 2013 by 15% to 60 deaths17

Get the facts on new psychoactive substances.

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Nitrous Oxide

According to the Australian Trends in Ecstasy and Related Drug Markets 2013 Survey, one quarter (25%) of a sample of people who regularly use ecstasy and related drugs reported recent nitrous oxide use in the six months preceding the survey. This is comparable with 2012 results. Use was highest in Victoria (45%)31.

Get the facts on nitrous oxide.

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Oxycodone

National

The amount of oxycodone being prescribed by doctors increased from 95.1 kg in 1999 to 1270.7 kg in 2008 – a 13-fold increase18.

Victoria

The amount of oxycodone being prescribed by doctors increased nine-fold from 7.5 mg per capita in 2000 to 67.5 mg per capita in 200918.

Get the facts on oxycodone.

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Performance and image enhancing drugs (including steroids)

  • According to the Australian Crime Commission the number of steroid seizures at our borders has increased seven fold between 2004/05 (50) and 2013/14 (357)34.
  • The Australian Needle and Syringe Program survey found that performance and image enhancing drug use grew from 2% in 2010 to 7% in 201435.

 

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Pharmacotherapy drugs (methadone, buprenorphine and naloxone)

On a snapshot day in June 2015, 48,522 clients were receiving pharmacotherapy treatment in Australia. 66% received methadone, 21% received buprenorphine–naloxone and 14% received buprenorphine.23

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Psilocybin / 'Magic mushrooms'

National

A 2013 Australian survey found that 1% of the sample nominated 'magic mushrooms' as their drug of choice and that use was most common in Victoria and the ACT. Participants also reported that use was sporadic or very occasional and that the majority of all people recently using mushrooms, used them less than monthly. 

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Synthetic cannabis

An online study recently conducted in 2012 found that of the people who use the drug:

  • The median age is 27 years
  • 70% are male
  • 78% are employed
  • 7% use daily20

National

  • 1.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used synthetic cannabis at some stage in their lives1.
  • 1.2% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used synthetic cannabis in the previous 12 months1.


According to Australian data from the Global Drug Survey, synthetic cannabis was the 20th most commonly used drug – 4.1% of respondents had used this type of drug in the last 12 months20.

Get the facts on synthetics cannabis.

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Tobacco

National

  • 39.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tobacco1.
  • More males than females are daily smokers across all age groups1.
  • People who smoke aged 12 years and over smoked on average 95.9 cigarettes per week1.
  • Around 1 in 8 (12.8%) Australians aged 14 years and over smoke daily1.
  • In 2012, 12.5% of all mothers reported that they had smoked while pregnant. This is down from 13.2% in 2011 and 13.5% in 201030.
  • Teenage mothers accounted for 10.2% of all mothers who reported smoking during pregnancy. But of all teenage mothers, 34.9% reported smoking30.

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) have their first full cigarette at 15.9 years on average1.
  • 77% of 12–17 year olds have not smoked. The proportion of 12–17 year olds who have never smoked decreases in the older age groups, but by age 17 more than half have still never smoked9.
  • Around 4% of all 12-17 year olds have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, which peaks at 9% among 17 year olds9.


Get the facts on tobacco.

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Overdose

In Australia in 2010, there were 613 accidental death attributed to opioids among people aged 15-54 years. In the over 55 age group, there were 74 deaths. Many of these deaths were due to multiple drugs being taken including prescription opioids. Alcohol and other drug experts suggest that opioid-related deaths in Australia are increasing.21

Of all illegal substances, heroin and other opioids were involved with the largest number of drug-related deaths, despite the number of people using them being low compared to other substances. Amphetamines including 'ice' have the second highest death rate of illegal drugs.22

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Further information

Statistics

Infographics

 

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References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Canberra: AIHW.

2. Callinan, S., & Room, R. (2012). Alcohol consumption during pregnancy: results from the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Canberra: Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

3. Manning, M., Smith, C., & Mazerolle, P. (2013). The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

4. Collins, D., & Lapsley, H. (2008). The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

5. Laslett, A.M., Catalano, P., Chikritzhs, T., et al. (2010). The range and magnitude of alcohol’s harm to others. Fitzroy: AER Centre for Alcohol Policy Research.

6. Dale, C.E., & Livingston, M. (2010). The burden of alcohol drinking on co-workers in the Australian workplace. Medical Journal of Australia, 193(3), 138-140.

7. Smith, A., Agius, P., Mitchell, A., Barrett, C., & Pitts, M. (2009). Secondary students and sexual health 2008: Results of the 4th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students, HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health. Melbourne: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.

8. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, Canberra: NHMRC.

9. White, V., & Bariola, E. (2012). Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011. Melbourne: The Cancer Council, Victoria.

10. Lloyd, B., Matthews, S., Gao, C.X., Heilbronn C., & Beck, D. (2015). Ambo Project – Alcohol and drug related ambulance attendances: Trends in alcohol and drug related ambulance attendances in Victoria 2013/14. Fitzroy: Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre.

11. Coroners Court of Victoria. (2012). Finding into death with inquest, Inquest in the Death of David Andrew Trengrove, Delivered on 18 May 2012.

12. World Health Organization. (2012). Review of Areca (betel) nut and tobacco use in the Pacific - A technical report. Geneva: World Health Organization.

13. Ashock, L., Deepika, N., Sujatha, G.P., & Shiva P.S. (2011). ‘Areca nut: To chew or not to chew?’. e-Journal of Dentistry, 1(3), 46–50.

14. Olsen, A., McDonald, D., Lenton, S., & Dietze P. (2014). Key interim findings : Independent evaluation of the ‘Implementing Expanding Naloxone Availability in the ACT (I-ENAACT)’ program, 2011-2013, Canberra: ACT Health.

15. Roxburgh, A., & Burns, L. (2014). Accidental opioid-induced deaths in Australia 2010, Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

16. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). (2015). New psychoactive substances in Europe – An update from the EU Early Warning System, Lisbon: EMCDDA. .

17. Office for National Statistics. (2014). Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales [PDF:283KB], 2013 Newport: Office for National Statistics.

18. Rintoul, A.C., Dobbin, M., Drummer, O.H., & Ozanne-Smith, J. (2011). Increasing deaths involving oxycodone, Victoria, Australia, 2000-09. Injury Prevention, 17(4), 254–259.

19. Barratt, M.J. (2012). Kronic appeal: Patterns of synthetic cannabinoid use in Australia [PDF:460KB], Melbourne: Yarra Drug and Health Forum.

20. Global Drug Survey. (2014). Last 12 month prevalence of top 20 drugs. [PDF:249KB] London: Global Drug Survey.

21. Roxburgh, A., & Burns, L. (2014). Accidental opioid-induced deaths in Australia 2010, Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

22. Wenlong, L., & Naren, G. (2013). Illicit drug overdose – prevalence and acute management.

23. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2013). National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data Collection 2012 [PDF:2MB].

24. Fitzgerald, J. (2009). Khat: a literature review [PDF:890KB].

25. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2007). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, 2006 report: detailed analyses.

26. Australian Coffee Traders Association website (2006) Australian coffee stats. Retrieved August 2011

27. Gunja, N. & Brown, J. (2012). Energy drinks: health risks and toxicity. Medical Journal of Australia. 196(1), 46–49.

28. BIS Shrapnel. (2009). BIS Shrapnel release report on Australian coffee culture.

29. Canadean. (2011). Canadean Soft Drink Service – Australia and New Zealand energy drink consumption volumes 1999–2016. July 2011.

30. Hilder, L., Zhichao, Z., Parker, M., & Chambers, G.M. (2014) Australia's mothers and babies 2012. Perinatal statistics series, no. 20. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

31. Sindicich, N. & Burns, L. (2014). Finding from the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) 2013.

32. Roxburgh, A., Burns, L., Drummer, O., Pilgrim, J., Farrell, M. & Degenhardt, L. (2013). Trends in fentanyl prescriptions and fentanyl-related mortality in Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review, 32. 269-275.   

33. Sindicich, N. & Burns, L. (2014). Findings from the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS).

34. Australian Crime Commission. (2015). 2013-14 Illicit Drug Data Report.

35. Iversen, J. & Maher, L. (2015). Australian NSP Survey - Prevalence of HIV, HCV and injecting and sexual behaviour among Needle and Syringe Program attendees, 20 year national data report 1995-2014.

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Last updated: 9 May 2016

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit www.DrugInfo.ADF.org.au for more