30/06/2023: Concerning alcohol and drug trends in new report

Crowd of people in train station

A new report summarising the most recent data on alcohol and other drugs in Australia has highlighted the need for greater action to prevent and reduce their related harms, including injury and death.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs in Australia report shows that concerningly, alcohol harms are increasing:

  • The number of alcohol-related deaths reached a 10-year peak of 1,559 in 2021, an increase of 7.4% from 2020.
  • Alcohol accounted for nearly three in five (57%) drug-related hospitalisations in 2020-21, up from 53% in 2019-20. The majority of these (74%) were recorded for males.

It comes after the AIHW 2021–22 Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia report, released last week, revealed the number of Australians reaching out to alcohol treatment services is also at its highest in a decade.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Dr Erin Lalor AM, said alcohol-related deaths were largely preventable and more needed to be done to address the concerning trend.

“The impact of these deaths is widespread – we must remember these are real people whose lives have been tragically cut short, with families and friends who are suffering,” Dr Lalor AM said.

“We can’t afford further delay on action to stop these rising numbers. We urgently need greater investments in evidence-based prevention and harm reduction initiatives.

“We also need to see stronger regulations around the availability and promotion of alcohol, which is linked to higher risk drinking.

“We know that men experience a significant proportion of alcohol harms, and this report highlights the importance of targeted interventions with vulnerable populations, including people with long-term alcohol use problems.”

The report also includes data showing the number of people using drugs in Australia has been gradually increasing, despite record drug seizures.

“When it comes to illicit drug use, despite best efforts from law enforcement and our judicial system, drugs continue to be imported into Australia. And we know many people, from lawyers to mechanics to office workers, use illicit drugs,” Dr Lalor AM continued.

“The criminalisation of illicit drug use causes stigma and can stop people who use drugs from reaching out for help and support when they need it most. This is why a health-based approach to drug use is needed to reduce the significant harm experienced by people who use drugs.

“Treating drug use as a health issue can have many benefits for individuals, families and communities, including less drug use among problematic users, fewer drug related deaths and disease, and more people help-seeking.”


For interviews and media enquiries, please contact the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s media team on 0430 948 380 or media@adf.org.au.