Alcohol, drug treatment patients ageing: AIHW

drug treatments: red wine spills from glass onto beige carpet

The age profile of people accessing publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies is changing, with the proportion of clients aged over 40 increasing, according to statistics released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The new information, available here, shows that over the five years to 2013-14, the percentage of people being treated who were aged 40 and over rose from 30% to 33%, while those aged 20-29 fell from 29% to 27%.

“This points to an ageing cohort, with data indicating that alcohol is more commonly the drug of concern for older clients than it is for younger people presenting to these services,” says AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

In 2013-14, around 122,000 clients received treatment from publicly funded alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment agencies across Australia. This equates to a rate of 520 clients per 100,000 people, or about 1 in 200 people in the general population.

Two-thirds of all clients receiving treatment were male, and Indigenous Australians continue to be over-represented (14% of clients were Indigenous Australians, despite only comprising 2.7% of the general population).

Around 40% of closed (completed or ceased) treatment episodes were for alcohol as the main drug of concern, 24% were for cannabis, 17% for amphetamines, and 7% for heroin.

These drugs have remained the most common principal drugs of concern for the last 10 years, however, in the five years to 2013-14, treatment for amphetamine use has risen from 7% to 17% of all closed treatment episodes.

Counselling continues to be the most common treatment type for clients (two in every five closed treatment episodes), followed by assessment only (16%) and withdrawal management (14%).

The median duration of closed treatment episodes was 29 days for clients receiving treatment for heroin and amphetamines, 25 days for alcohol and 16 days for cannabis. Around four in five closed treatment episodes ended within three months.

“As a whole, the duration of treatment in AOD agencies has fallen slightly over the last two years,” Neideck says.

“This may be partly due to an increase in the number of clients who have been diverted from the criminal justice system into AOD treatment for cannabis use, which generally has shorter treatment duration.”


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