Annual impacts of alcohol and other drug use

ReGen Annual Report 2013 14 FA Infographic

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use is the leading risk factor for the burden of disease in Australia1 

Understanding the problem

Australia has a problem with alcohol and other drugs:

  • Alcohol is consumed by three out of four Australians.4 Most drink responsibly, but many do not. Alcohol remains, by far, the drug responsible for the most harm in Australia.
  • More than 40% of Australians over 14 have tried illicit drugs, mostly cannabis4. Heroin use continues to decline, but Ice (methamphetamines) and emerging ‘synthetic’ drugs pose new challenges.
  • Prescription rates for powerful opioids, benzodiazepines and other psychoactive medications continue to rise. Overdose deaths have now overtaken the road toll.

Problematic AOD use does not occur in isolation. It happens in response to other events occurring in people’s lives. However, problematic AOD use has its own consequences and adds complexity to the challenges people face. The harmful impacts of AOD use are felt by individuals and families, but everyone in the community bears the cost.

Understanding treatment

Reducing the supply of and demand for alcohol and other drugs are key elements of Australia’s harm minimisation approach, but problematic use still occurs and harm is done.

Improving social justice, health and wellbeing and promoting individual empowerment all play a role in reducing the drivers of problematic AOD use, but people still experience trauma, injustice and social exclusion.

Treatment services work with people to reduce harm, support change and rebuild their lives.

Early interventions address problematic AOD use before it escalates. The earlier this is done, the easier it is to respond to issues that contribute to that use and reduce the associated impacts on people’s lives. However, people often only seek AOD treatment once they have reached crisis point and they feel that they have lost control of their lives.

At this point, people don’t just need help with their AOD use, but with the much bigger task of rebuilding their lives. For treatment to be effective, a holistic approach is required.

Promoting wellbeing

ReGen’s services support the reduction and/or cessation of AOD use (and related harms) by strengthening people’s resilience and assisting them to develop new skills.

Treating people with respect and recognising their strengths (as well as their needs) are effective ways to support sustainable change in their lives. ReGen provides a range of connected services that promote improved wellbeing in key areas including physical and mental health, family relationships, support networks and opportunities for work, study and volunteering.

The stronger people’s wellbeing, the greater their resilience in the face of future challenges and the less likely they are to require further AOD treatment.


1Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Drugs in Australia 2010: tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, 2010
2Drug Policy Modelling Program: Law enforcement takes the lion’s share of illicit drug spend, 2013
3World Health Organisation - Global Burden of Disease (Alcohol is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease burden; it is the leading risk factor in the Western Pacific and the Americas and the second largest in Europe)
4Australian Institute for Health and Welfare: 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report