When might use start?

The use of alcohol and other drugs by Australian teenagers is actually declining. But, they are likely to encounter alcohol and other drugs as they become more independent.19

young friends leaving house

The age at which teenagers first try alcohol or other drugs has been steadily increasing.

  • In 2019, the average age people first smoked a cigarette was 16.6 years, compared to 14.3 years in 2001.
  • This is similar for alcohol – increasing from 14.7 years in 2001, to 16.2 years in 2019.
  • The average age someone first tries an illegal drug rose from 16.7 years in 2016 to 17.3 years in 2019.20

Teenagers drinking patterns are also changing.

More teenagers are choosing not to drink alcohol.

  • In 2007, 39% of 14-17 years olds didn’t drink, but by 2019 this rose to 73%.20
  • Of those who did drink in 2017, 43% got alcohol from their parents.21

Cannabis is the third most used drug after alcohol and nicotine, but less teenagers seem to be interested than previously.

  • In 2019, 8.2% of those aged 14-17 had recently used cannabis, a decrease from 21% in 2001.20

Research shows the vast majority of people who use cannabis don’t go on to use other illicit drugs. And, there is no evidence suggesting people who use cannabis will ‘graduate’ over time to other drugs.22

Some teenagers will try cannabis a few times and stop, others will continue to use it occasionally without any significant issues.20 Read more about cannabis and teenagers here.

Some teenagers might also use inhalants, you can read more about inhalants here.

For information about any other drug check out our Drug Facts page here.

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