Drug and alcohol statistics

Find the latest research and statistics relating to the use of alcohol and other drugs among Australians.

National Drug Strategy Household Survey

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) collects information on alcohol and tobacco consumption and illicit drug use among the general population in Australia. It is conducted and published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Since 1985 the survey has been conducted every two to three years as part of the Australian government’s National Drug Strategy. The survey provides useful information relating to trends in the use of alcohol and other drugs among Australians aged 14 years and over.

The 2022-23 survey was the 14th conducted as part of the National Drug Strategy and its predecessors, with results released in 2024. The report is available online. Over 21,000 Australians aged 14 years and over were interviewed. More detailed information regarding the survey and its methodology can be found on the AIHW website.  

Trends in alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use

The 2022-23 survey revealed an overall downward trend in the use of tobacco, a slight increase in alcohol use and a larger increase in the use of illicit drugs. Daily use of tobacco and alcohol is decreasing, a trend observed consistently in survey results over a number of years.  

The table below relates to trends in recent use (last 12 months) of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs (excluding non-medical use of pharmaceuticals) among surveyed Australians aged 14 years and over (by %).

Illicit drugs14.212.610.812.012.012.614.117.9

However, within these broad trends the survey reports variances between drug type and among different age demographics. More detailed trends are listed below.


The NDSHS states: While the number of people abstaining from alcohol has gradually increased over time, a majority of people in Australia do consume alcohol, and of those that do, most drink at safe levels. However, alcohol can cause harms in many ways, as it contributes to disease and illness, violence and assaults, avoidable injury, motor accidents, and birth defects.

The NDSHS results noted that the proportion of people drinking alcohol at levels above the recommendations of the Australian Alcohol Guidelines has not changed substantially between 2016 (33%) and 2022–2023 (31%).

A breakdown of drinking frequency among surveyed Australians aged 14 years and over (by %) is below.

Less than monthly14.613.513.813.314.
Never a full glass of alcohol9.39.410.

Other findings from the 2022-23 survey include the following:

  • The proportion of people who have never had a full glass of alcohol in their lives continues to increase, from 14.4% in 2019 to 14.9% in 2022-23. In 2001 this figure was 9.3%.
  • 1 in 4 people (25%) consumed more than 10 standard drinks per week on average in both 2019 and 2022–2023, down from 30% in 2010. 
  • Around 1 in 4 people (24%) consumed more than 4 standard drinks in a single day at least monthly, similar to 2019 (25%) but down from 2010 when 29% of people did so.
  • Generally, younger people were more likely to have exceeded the alcohol guidelines by drinking more than 4 standard drinks in a single day at least monthly, while older people were more likely to do so by consuming more than 10 standard drinks per week on average. 

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Fewer Australians are smoking daily than ever before and fewer are exposed to tobacco smoke at home regularly. However, between 2019 and 2022-23, lifetime and current use of e-cigarettes increased among both smokers and non-smokers. Smoking status among surveyed Australians from the 2022-23 survey is below (by %).

Daily smoker19.417.516.615.112.812.211.08.3
Current occasional - weekly1.
Current occasional - less than weekly2.
Never smoked50.652.955.457.960.162.363.165.4

Other findings from the 2022-23 survey include the following:

  • Fewer Australians are smoking tobacco, down from 24% in 1991 to 8% in 2022-23, however use of e-cigarettes (vaping) has increased. 
  • Between 2019 and 2022–2023, daily smoking decreased among all age groups from 18–24 through to those aged 50–59. Only those aged 60–69 and 70 and older did not see substantial decreases in the daily smoking rate.  
  • 1 in 5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people smoked daily in 2022–2023, and after adjusting for differences in age, First Nations people were 2.6 times as likely as non‑Indigenous people to smoke daily in 2022–2023.


The 2022-23 survey also revealed that vaping use in Australia is on the rise, with the following insights about vaping/e-cigarette use revealed:

  • In 2022–2023, 1 in 5 (19.8%) people aged 14 and over in Australia reported having used e‑cigarettes at least once in their lifetime. This was a large increase from 2019, when only 11.3% of people had ever used e‑cigarettes
  • Young people aged 18 to 24 were the most likely to have used e‑cigarettes in 2022–2023, with almost 1 in 2 (49%) having used them at least once in their lifetime, and over 1 in 5 (21%) currently using e‑cigarettes in 2022–2023.
  • The proportion of people who used e‑cigarettes daily in 2022–2023 was 3.5%, rising from 1.1% in 2019.
  • For people who were currently using e‑cigarettes, almost three quarters (73%) reported that the last one they used contained nicotine. For people who used e‑cigarettes daily, over 4 in 5 (85%) reported that the last one they used contained nicotine. 

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Illicit drugs

The survey provided detailed information, broken down by age and other community demographics, and by different types of drugs. Some of the findings were:

  • Almost 1 in 2 people (47%) have used an illicit drug in their lifetime, with cannabis being the most used (41%).
  • Non-medical use of painkillers/pain-relievers and opioids has continued to decline. In 2016 3.6% of Australians had used in the previous 12 months. This figure fell to 2.7% in 2019 and 2.2% in 2022-23.
  • Cannabis was the most commonly used illicit drug in 2022-23, with 11.5% of Australians using it in the last 12 months. This was followed by cocaine at 4.5%, hallucinogens at 2.4% and ecstasy at 2.1%. 

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HealthStats NSW

Alcohol was ranked fifth among risk factors contributing to ill health and death in Australia, accounting for 4.5% of disease burden in 2018 (AIHW, 2021). It was a major risk factor for alcohol use disorders, various types of cancer, chronic liver disease and injury predominantly road traffic injuries and suicide and self-inflicted injuries.

In NSW in 2021 almost 2,000 deaths were attributable to alcohol (an age-adjusted rate of 19 deaths per 100,000 population). This accounts for approximately 3.5% of all deaths of NSW residents in 2021. 

The most prevalent alcohol attributable conditions that contributed to death were: 

  • liver cancer (17%)
  • coronary heart disease and chronic liver disease (both 11%)
  • stroke (9%) 
  • alcohol use disorders (7%), and
  • suicide and self-inflicted injuries (5%).

Find out more at HealthStats NSW.

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