Overview of substance use and treatment from Australia

Subst Abus. 2014;35(3):304-8. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2014.924466.


This paper aims to provide an overview of drug and alcohol issues and their management in Australia. Overall, Australia has good health relative to the United States and other similar nations and generally similar rates of substance use disorders. A whole-of-government strategic approach has been developed for managing drug and alcohol problems, with a National Drug Strategy that has adopted a pragmatic approach to substance use problems through 3 "pillars"--demand, supply, and harm reduction. This approach has been attributed to Australia's remarkably low human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence among people who inject drugs (<2%). Most community primary health care is provided through Australia's universal health care scheme, which provides a rebate for nearly all medical services according to a scheduled fee. Inpatient and outpatient care, including drug and alcohol services, delivered at public hospitals are currently provided with no patient co-payments. The health of Australia's first peoples, Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, remains challenging primarily due to the transgenerational impacts of dispossession, social and economic disadvantage, and some cultural differences. Although substance use is a key issue for Australian Aboriginals, there are currently insufficient dedicated drug and alcohol services for this group. Notwithstanding this important exception, Australia's health and substance use is favorable relative to other developed nations, offering universal health care and a pragmatic drug and alcohol strategy.

Keywords: International; policy; public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • National Health Programs*
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*