Patterns and prevalence of alcohol and other drug use in rural Australia

May 21, 2018

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference will be held next week over Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 May with optional workshops on Wednesday 30 May at the QT Gold Coast.

Professor Ann Roche, Director at the National Centre For Education And Training On Addiction (NCETA) joins us at the Conference to discuss ‘Patterns and prevalence of alcohol and other drug use in rural Australia’.

Professor Ann Roche


Aims and Relevance:
Rural Australians experience poorer health and wellbeing compared to those in metropolitan areas, including higher AOD use. This study compared alcohol, methamphetamine, cannabis and opioid use among city, regional, and rural populations, and examined differential patterns of treatment service utilisation. Implications of drug use trends and alternative treatment options are presented.

Secondary analyses of data from the 2007, 2010, and 2013 and 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Surveys were undertaken. Data from the 2006/07, 2009/10, 2012/13, and 2015/16 Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Datasets were also examined.

Rates of risky drinking, methamphetamine and cannabis use were all highest in rural areas. For example, in 2016, risky drinking was highest in rural locations. Recent cannabis use was higher in rural than metropolitan/regional locations and increased between 2010-2016 from 11.4% to 17.0%, whilst relatively stable elsewhere. Recent rural methamphetamine use was 2+ times higher than elswhere (3.5% vs 1.2-1.6%; nationally: 1.4%) and increased between 2007-2016 (3.0% vs 3.5%) but decreased or remained stable elsewhere.

Treatment for one’s own drug use (2015-16) was examined by location/state. Alcohol was principal drug of concern in NSW, Vic, Tas, ACT and NT; cannabis accounted for highest proportion of treatment episodes in Qld; methamphetamine accounted for highest proportion in WA and SA. Between 2007-10 and 2015-16, treatment episodes for alcohol decreased (42% vs 32%), remained stable for cannabis at 23%, and doubled for meth amphetamine (12% vs 23%).

Comprehensive empirical evidence of higher and variable AOD use among rural Australians is identified, confirming reports of higher rates of risky drinking, cannabis, opioids and methamphetamine use. Given pre-existing health and social vulnerabilities of rural Australians targeted interventions tailored to the unique circumstances of rural areas are paramount. Options for innovative use of intervention technologies will be outlined.


Professor Ann Roche has over 30 years’ experience in public health. She has worked as a policy analyst, researcher, and educator. For the past 15 years she has been the Director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders University. Previously, she was Director of the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC). She has held academic posts at several universities, and has worked in clinical, public health and community settings. Ann’s professional activities have primarily focused on alcohol and other drug issues, particularly policy development, best practice, workforce development, and research dissemination.

For more information and to secure your last minute spot please visit the conference website.





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