Alcohol remains drug of choice as abuse treatment increases

THE true extent of Australia's battle with the bottle has been revealed in an alarming Federal Government health report, which shows the number of people requiring treatment for alcohol abuse has significantly increased in the past decade.

Data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Sunday suggested alcohol was still Australia's drug of choice, responsible for almost half of what medical experts describe as "government-funded treatment episodes" from 2010-11.

In the same time frame, more than 150,000 alcohol and other drug treatment episodes were recorded across the country, almost 5000 more than the previous year.More males than females required treatment but alcohol remained the most common vice for both sexes in all states other than Tasmania, where cannabis use was equally as popular.

The institute's spokesman Justin Harvey said about 96% of clients were receiving treatment for their own drug use rather than someone else's.

He said the institute was also concerned about the over-representation of alcohol abuse in the Aboriginal and Torres Trait Islander community.

Compared with their proportion in the general population (about 2%), indigenous clients made up about 13% of the clientele.

They are also more likely to require treatment at a younger age - about 51% were under 30 compared to 38% for non-Indigenous clients.

Alcohol was listed as the number one concern in 51% of indigenous cases.

Hard drugs like heroin and methamphetamines have lost their appeal according to the report, but cannabis abuse came in a close second to alcohol.

"After alcohol, cannabis was the most common principal drug of concern at 22%, followed by amphetamines and heroin both at 9%," Mr Harvey said.

"In recent years, there has been a steady decline in heroin as a principal drug of concern in treatment episodes, down from 18% in 2003-04."

Mr Harvey said counselling was still the number one treatment at 41%, followed by withdrawal management at 16% and "assessment only" at 14%.

Topics:  alcohol federal government

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