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Addiction Problems in Australia

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Addiction is a growing problem all over the world, and Australia is no exception to this trend. Documented cases of substance and behavioural addiction continue to grow with each year, not only ruining the lives and financial situation of thousands of individuals, but also impacting their communities. 

The problem of addiction also goes hand-in-hand with mental health crises. Having a functioning, affordable, and effective support network of addiction treatment centres, groups, and mental health professionals is so important in the context of helping individuals get sober. 

Unfortunately, many Australians don’t have access to these necessary services in the country, due to a number of reasons, which we will get into later on in this article. The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in sunny Thailand is chosen by a growing number of Australians who struggle with addiction and mental health issues. 

Keep reading to learn more about the wider context of addiction issues in Australia, as well as our internationally-accredited centre, facilities, and team of professionals. 

Overview of Addiction and Substance Abuse in Australia 

Addiction and substance abuse are significant public health concerns in Australia, affecting individuals, families, and communities. The consequences of addiction are far-reaching, impacting physical and mental health, relationships, employment, and overall quality of life. 

There’s a myriad of substances that many Australians abuse on a regular basis, and the problem has proven to be an overwhelming one, despite the various policies and programs that the Australian government has put in place to combat it. 

Most Commonly Abused Substances 

In Australia, the most commonly abused substances include alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, methamphetamine, and prescription medications. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), alcohol is the most widely used substance, with approximately 78% of Australians aged 14 and over having consumed alcohol in the past year. 

Alcohol abuse contributes to a range of health issues, including liver disease, cancer, and mental health disorders. Alcohol addiction treatment accounted for 42% of all instances of substance abuse treatment in Australia between 2021 and 2022. Furthermore, nearly 3 in 5 drug-related hospitalizations took place due to alcohol abuse, which just goes to show the scale of the alcohol problem in the country. 

Tobacco use remains a significant concern, with around 11% of Australians aged 14 and over smoking daily. Tobacco is a leading cause of preventable death and disease, contributing to lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses. 

Tobacco addiction is thought to be one of the most difficult ones to quit, and although there has been a downward trend in smoking prevalence in Australia, tobacco continues to be the leading cause of cancer in the country, with 44% of all cancer cases being smoking-related. 

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia, with approximately 11.6% of the population aged 14 and over having used it in the past year. While cannabis is often perceived as a relatively harmless substance, its use can lead to dependence, mental health issues, and impaired cognitive function. 

As opposed to tobacco and alcohol, marijuana addiction and usage is expected to rise in the coming years, with increased availability and relaxation of laws regulating the use, possession and distribution of marijuana. 

While it is important to note that cannabis is not nearly as harmful as some of the other substances we mention in this article, abusing it can lead to a number of serious, long-term brain health issues, especially among teenagers and young adults. 

Methamphetamine, commonly known as “ice,” is a potent stimulant that has gained popularity in recent years. Around 1.3% of Australians aged 14 and over have used methamphetamine in the past year, with its use linked to severe physical and mental health issues, including psychosis, heart problems, and violent behaviour. 

While overall usage has gone down from 3.4% in 2001, the number of deaths caused by methamphetamine use (or involving it) has gone up rapidly over the course of the last two decades – in 2021, it accounted for 1.8 deaths per 100,000 citizens. In 2021-22, meth addiction treatment was the second-most commonly provided one in Australia, accounting for 24% of all cases. 

Prescription medication misuse is another growing concern in Australia. The non-medical use of prescription drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, can lead to dependence, overdose, and death. In 2019, there were 1,644 drug-induced deaths in Australia, with prescription opioids involved in 62% of these cases. 

Just like the United States, Australia is facing a prescription drug abuse epidemic. Deaths related to benzodiazepines alone have skyrocketed to 2.9 per 100,000 people, and that’s without mentioning other addictive pharmaceuticals.

Behavioural Addictions 

Behavioural addictions, also known as process addictions, involve compulsive engagement in activities that provide short-term pleasure or relief from discomfort, despite the long-term negative consequences. 

The most common behavioural addictions in Australia include gambling, internet use, and gaming. It’s a particularly tricky type of addiction to deal with. As opposed to illicit or prescription drugs, there are no physical indicators that suggest someone may be having a problem. However, the psychological grasp process addictions can have on a person is often stronger than in the case of substances.

Because of that, oftentimes individuals don’t even realise that they’re spiralling down the hole of addiction until they have started experiencing the most severe negative consequences. 

Gambling addiction is a significant issue in Australia, with the country having one of the highest rates of gambling participation globally. Problem gambling can lead to financial difficulties, relationship breakdowns, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. An estimated 1.33 million of Australians were considered to be at risk of developing a gambling addiction in 2017. According to AIHW, relationships tend to suffer the most as a result of a person’s gambling problem, as they account for nearly 25% of gambling-related harms.  

Internet and gaming addictions have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, particularly among young people. Excessive internet use can result in social isolation, sleep disturbances, and impaired academic or occupational functioning. Similarly, gaming addiction can lead to a range of negative consequences, including physical health problems, social withdrawal, and reduced academic or work performance. 

Contrary to gambling, internet and gaming are process addictions that tend to disproportionately affect children and teenagers, posing a particular challenge for parents and teachers who are often ill-equipped to deal with the issue on their own. 

Statistics and Demographics 

The scale of addiction in Australia is staggering. When broken down by demographic groups, the issue becomes even more concerning. According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey carried out in 2019, almost half of secondary students (aged 12 to 17) have admitted to drinking alcohol in the past 12 months, and the proportion of drinking students has increased with age. 

“Only” 4% of 12-year-olds have tried alcohol. That’s a lot, considering that they wouldn’t even be served coffee due to their age at many establishments. Their older counterparts, however, are even more likely to have tried alcohol, with one-third of 17-year-old secondary students admitting to have drunk alcohol in the seven days prior to the survey. 

Unsurprisingly, given its prevalence in modern popular culture, cannabis has turned out to be the second-most used substance by secondary students, and the most popular illicit one. 16% of 12-17-year-olds have admitted to ever trying marijuana, and 8% of them stated that they’ve used it in the month preceding the survey. 

Thankfully, the survey has shown that other illicit substances aren’t as prevalent among the youngsters, with 97-99% of them saying that they’ve never tried drugs like amphetamines, hallucinogens (ex. LSD), or heroin. 

Before we move on to the older segments of the Australian population, it is important to note that a survey like the one cited above may not be the most accurate representation of the substance abuse problem among school-going teenagers. 

Fearing consequences of their behaviour, many of them may have lied about their experiences with drugs and alcohol. While the National Drug Strategy Household Survey is as close as we can get to a statistical overview of the problem, its inaccuracies cannot be omitted when discussing the state of addiction in Australia. 

Most cases of drug abuse have been recorded among 20-29 year olds, with methamphetamine being the most concerning substance of them all. While overall usage has gone down compared to previous years, the frequency with which people who are already addicted has increased, leading to more hospitalizations. 

Finally, people aged 50 and over are considerably less at risk of developing dependency on illicit substances, their usage among this demographic group has increased, as well. They are also more likely to be addicted to prescription drugs than other groups. 

Drinking remains the biggest problem among Australians aged 50 and over, with many reporting drinking more than 11 standard drinks per single occasion. 

Government Policies Addressing Addiction in Australia 

The Australian government hasn’t been inactive in addressing the growing addiction problems its population faces, but there is a long way to go in terms of eradicating it. 

The bulk of the government’s efforts in this domain is concentrated in the National Drug Strategy, which is a 10-year plan aimed at expanding the resources and help available to individuals struggling with addiction, as well as minimising the impact these harmful habits have on Australian communities. 

In recent years, increased funding has been allocated to various research centres focusing on addiction issues. These include:

  • National Clinical Centre for Research of Emerging Drugs
  • National Drug Research Institute 
  • Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research
  • National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction 
  • National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre 

Furthermore, there are quite a few public programs created with the purpose of getting addicted individuals started on their way towards recovery. The most prominent of those are the National Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline and the ASSIST initiative (Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening Test). 

The former serves as the first point of contact for addicts, providing information and assistance in the most immediate perspective, while the latter is a comprehensive screening initiative designed to help individuals pinpoint their addiction, its root causes, and help set up an appropriate recovery strategy. 

The main problem of such widespread, sweeping addiction programs is the fact that they’re only useful to a certain extent. Public resources are limited, and providing individual care to each and every person who needs it is simply impossible without lengthy wait periods or adopting a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

Addiction in Australia: Contributing Factors

Drug-addicted woman holding a syringe next to a small pile of white powder

So why are Australians at such high risk of developing substance and behavioural addictions? Although the root causes ultimately come down to each and every individual and their own lived experiences, we can pinpoint three main contributing factors that lead a lot of people to turn to psychoactive substances and addictive behaviours. 

Socio Economic Issues

Socio-economic factors play a significant role in the development and maintenance of addiction. Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to experience substance abuse and addiction, as they may face increased stress, limited access to education and employment opportunities, and reduced social support. 

Additionally, those living in rural and remote areas may have limited access to alcohol and drug addiction treatment services, further exacerbating the issue.


The availability of addictive substances and activities is a key factor in the prevalence of addiction in Australia. The widespread availability of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, as well as the accessibility of gambling venues and online gaming platforms, can increase the likelihood of individuals engaging in addictive behaviours.

Cultural Factors 

Cultural factors also contribute to addiction and substance abuse in Australia. For example, the country has a strong drinking culture, with alcohol consumption often seen as a normal part of socialising and celebrating. This normalisation can contribute to excessive alcohol use and the development of alcohol-related problems.

Addressing Addiction in Australia

Two women hugging each other at a group therapy meeting

Individuals who find themselves wanting to break free from their addiction to substances or behaviours in Australia can turn to a number of institutions, both private and public, for support. 

Rehabilitation Centers and Programs

Inpatient rehabilitation programs are some of the most effective ways of treating addiction out there. With round-the-clock care, individualised programs combined with group therapy, and a myriad of facilities and activities designed to take one’s mind off of their harmful habits, inpatient rehab tends to yield the best results. 

Composed of individually-designed detoxification plans, holistic therapeutic activities such as mediation and yoga, as well as comprehensive aftercare, signing up for an inpatient program is a proven way to recover from addiction, far away from the triggers and temptations one may face in their usual surroundings. 

An alternative option for people who don’t have the time or resources to devote themselves to inpatient treatment is outpatient rehabilitation. It’s less time-intensive and much more flexible. Individual and group therapy sessions form the core of outpatient treatment programs, which also include medication management, as well as relapse prevention education. 

It’s important to note here that outpatient programs do not offer the same, full extent of services as inpatient rehabilitation, and they are usually most effective when coupled with intensive cognitive behavioural and family therapy sessions. 

Medication-Assisted Treatments 

On top of all the counselling and therapy mentioned above, addicted individuals can also look into MAT, or medication-assisted treatments. Designed to help people with a strong physical dependence on drugs such as opiates (illicit or prescription-based) or stimulants, these treatments entail replacing the abused substances with drugs to wean oneself off of their addiction. For example, buprenorphine or methadone are two common medications used to combat opioid addiction. 

Support Groups and Aftercare 

Initial recovery doesn’t always ensure complete relapse prevention. People with crippling addictions often find ways to rationalise returning to their destructive habits, which is why aftercare is such an important part of any recovery process.

Finding support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to share your feelings and experiences with is equally important as attending regular therapy sessions at the height of your addiction. 

Addicts should also work with their therapists to devise a sound aftercare plan aimed at keeping themselves from relapsing, as well as identifying triggers that might pull them back into addiction. 

The Problem with Seeking Addiction Help in Australia

There is no shortage of programs, institutions, and facilities designed to help addicts overcome their habits and carry on leading a clean and sober lifestyle. However, most of the effective programs available in Australia are very expensive and come with a long waiting list, even if you’re willing to shell out large amounts of money on them. 

This is particularly true for inpatient care, but many outpatient programs, especially therapy sessions and counselling, are growing increasingly costly with each passing year. 

The waiting lists can delay treatment by long stretches of time, allowing for individuals to “slip off” their commitment to sobriety and falling deeper and deeper into the vicious cycle of substance or process addiction. 

While public alternatives do exist, they are even more overburdened than private institutions, facing staff and resource shortages. That, in turn, makes the quality of care at public centres suffer, preventing individuals from getting the focus and care that they deserve. 

Due to all of the factors mentioned above, it is no wonder that overseas treatment facilities are experiencing a sharp rise in popularity among Australians who struggle to overcome addiction on their own. They are often more affordable than local options, and have the capacity to provide individual care to patients. 

Thailand, in particular, is a destination that houses many top-quality rehab facilities. It’s a country with a considerably lower cost of living than Australia, making inpatient rehabilitation programs in Thailand much more affordable. 

Get Professional Help in Thailand with The Dawn

The Dawn rehab facilities

Located just outside of Chiang Mai, the Dawn rehabilitation centre is the only internationally-accredited treatment centre in Asia that provides separate programs for both addiction and mental health issues. We take up a holistic approach to addiction treatment, and take into account not only your current addiction, but also your background, including past relationships, experiences, and underlying issues that have pushed you into the tight grip of addiction. 

Our treatment is designed to be a transformative experience that will not only help you overcome substance abuse, but also understand yourself better. At the Dawn, we will provide you with the knowledge and judgement that’s absolutely necessary to return to your everyday life, free of addiction, and well-aware of your triggers and environmental factors that can push you over the edge. 

We are committed to helping every individual that seeks our help return to their sober, happy self and pride ourselves in providing addicts with the space and services they need to overcome their inner demons. Don’t just take our word for it – take a look at our patients’ testimonials to see the effects of our treatment in practice. 

What We Offer 

At the Dawn, we combine cutting-edge Western approaches to addiction with traditional Asian wellness practices to help you heal at our peaceful riverfront sanctuary. Below, you can find a snippet of the full extent of our services and facilities. 

  • Top-of-the-line accommodation: our rooms come equipped with high-speed internet access, flat-screen TVs, and private balconies, allowing you to wind down and relax after a long day of working on yourself. 
  • Various therapy options: we offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy, and group therapy sessions, among others. 
  • Wellness therapy: music, yoga, massage, and physical exercise are just a few of the elements of our wellness therapy activities that allow you to recover in the right mindset and full comfort. 
  • Round-the-clock medical care: our medical team is on premises 24/7 to provide you with assistance whenever you need it. 
  • Step-down program: we’ll make the transition from inpatient rehab back to your usual environment in Australia as easy as possible for you, all the while making sure that you’re capable of functioning without reverting back to your old habits. 
  • Aftercare: our structured online aftercare support will help you stay on track and provide you with a way to stay in touch with the Dawn’s professionals both individually, and in group therapy. 

Our inpatient addiction treatment comes at a price that’s just one-third of what similar centres would charge you in Australia. Don’t settle for outpatient options or long waitlists – countless Australians made use of our services and are much better off for it!

Read more about why Australians choose the Dawn

Final Thoughts

The state of addiction problems in Australia is definitely cause for concern. Whether it’s substance abuse or behavioural addictions, millions of people fall prey to destructive habits every year, resulting in unnecessary deaths and hospitalizations.  

While public officials and private medical institutions do what they can to provide help, it’s often unaffordable and comes with extensive wait times, preventing many from receiving the immediate support they need and deserve.

The Dawn’s inpatient rehabilitation centre in Thailand offers an affordable, alternative path towards recovery, free from the stress and triggers of your day-to-day life. Our holistic approach will ensure that your individual needs are taken into account, helping you fully recover and live life to the fullest.

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