Drug trends and statistics

National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 collects information on illegal drug use, and alcohol and tobacco consumption among the general population in Australia.

The key findings for the survey are shown below:


  • Young adults are drinking less, and fewer 12 to 17 year olds are drinking.
  • More people in their 50s are consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one drinking session.

Illicit use of drugs

  • In 2016, around 3.1 million Australians reported using an illicit drug.
  • In 2016, the most common illicit drug was cannabis, followed by misuse of pharmaceuticals, cocaine, and then ecstasy.
  • While overall use of methamphetamine has decreased, use of crystal methamphetamine (ice) continues to be a problem.
  • People who are using crystal methamphetamine (ice), are using it more frequently which increases the risks and harms.

Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug 2014

More than 23,000 secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years participated in the Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug survey 2014. They were asked about their lifetime and current use of:

  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • analgesics, such as Disprin, Panadol and Nurofen
  • tranquilisers
  • illegal substances.

The key findings for the survey are shown below:


  • In 2014, almost half of all Australian secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years had consumed alcohol in the year preceding
    • The proportion of students who consumed alcohol in the week preceding the survey (current drinkers) increased with age, from 4 per cent of 12-year-olds to 36 per cent of 17-year-olds.

Illicit substances

  • Cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance with 16 per cent of students aged between 12 and 17 years ever using cannabis and 7 per cent using it in the month before the survey.
    • The proportion of students using cannabis increased with age.
  • Around 3 per cent of all students reported having used ecstasy/MDMA at some time in the past year and only 1 per cent indicated they had used ecstasy in the previous month.
  • The vast majority of secondary school students (98 per cent) had never used amphetamines.
    • Lifetime use of amphetamines increased with age from 1 per cent of 12-year-olds to 4 per cent of 17-year-olds.
  • Use of hallucinogens, such as LSD, was extremely low with 97 per cent of all students never having used them.
  • The use of opiates or narcotics such as heroin or morphine was very uncommon, with only 2 per cent of all students ever having used this substance.
  • A small proportion of students (2 per cent) reported ever using performance or image enhancing drugs, such as steroids, without a doctor’s prescription.
  • Use of synthetic substances such as synthetic cannabis was very low, with 98 per cent of all students reporting no use in the past 12 months.

Page last updated: 22 Sep 2017