Examining patterns, prevalence and correlates of AOD use

August 2017

NCETA is undertaking an innovative state-wide analysis of the indicators of problematic patterns of AOD use and treatment seeking in South Australia. The analysis involves three components: identification of the patterns and prevalence of users of key drug types; description of AOD treatment utilisation patterns; identification of drugs of concern for specific at-risk groups. The Adelaide and Country SA Primary Health Networks (PHN) are using the results from the analysis to inform the development, provision and funding of evidence-based AOD services in each of the respective PHNs.

Research Staff:
Professor Ann Roche
Dr Jane Fischer
Dr Alice McEntee
Victoria Kostadinov
Vinita Duraisingam
Roger Nicholas

Why are we doing this research?

Australia has extremely good AOD datasets reflecting the government’s investment in the collection of comprehensive and high quality data. These datasets include:

  • National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) – collected every four years by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) the NDSHS is the leading survey of licit and illicit drug use in Australia [1].
  • The Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSADS) – national study of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use amongst secondary school students aged 12-17 years undertaken by the Cancer Council Victoria [2].
  • Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS-NMDS) – information about publicly funded AOD treatment services including government and non-government organisations. Contains information on clients and the types of drugs being treated [3].
  • Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) – a national illicit drug monitoring system intended to identify emerging trends of local and national concern in illicit drug markets
  • National Prescribing Data, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – provides annual estimates of the aggregate community use of prescribed medicines in Australia listed on the PBS.

In addition, NCETA’s National Alcohol and Drug Knowledgebase (NADK), funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, identifies relevant, up-to-date, and high-quality data from reliable sources. It provides a one-stop source of accurate and easy to understand information (presented as frequently asked questions - FAQs) about alcohol, cannabis and methamphetamine.

In undertaking a needs assessment to inform the development and provision of evidence-based AOD services within their geographical regions the Adelaide and Country SA PHNs sought NCETA’s advice and assistance to develop:

  • An AOD Addiction or Risky Behaviour Profile of Adelaide and Country SA PHN regions
  • An AOD Systems Profile for Adelaide and Country SA PHN regions.

NCETA was commissioned by the two PHNs to:

  1. Identify the patterns and prevalence of AOD use in the South Australian PHN regions
  2. Assist the South Australian PHNs to develop and implement an evidence-based and needs-driven system of AOD service provision.

What are we doing?

NCETA extracted and analysed South Australian specific data from the following datasets:

  • National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), 2013
  • Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD), 2014
  • National Prescribing Data, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), 2013-14
  • Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS-NMDS) 2014/15
  • SA Health Emergency Department Data Collection (presentations) 2015/16
  • South Australian Admitted Patient Activity (Hospital Separations) 2015/16
  • Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) 2015.

Data from these datasets are broken down by Adelaide and Country SA PHNs regions and, where possible, Statistical Area Level 4 and 3.

Geographically, the Adelaide PHN is centred in and around the city of Adelaide and comprises the following SA4 areas, SA401 (Central), SA402 (North), SA403 (South) and SA404 (West).

The Country SA PHN comprises 99.8% of the state’s land mass and approximately 30% of the South Australian population. The SA4 areas comprising Country SA PHN are SA40102 (Adelaide Hills) and SA40201 (Gawler – Two Wells), SA405 (Barossa – Yorke – Mid North), SA406 (South Australia – Outback) and SA407 (South Australia - South East).

The results of the data analyses are highlighted in the following three summary reports for the PHNs:

  1. Alcohol and drug use in South Australia: Patterns & prevalence – the report identifies of risky drinking, drug use and use of some prescribed drugs in specific parts of the state and PHNs. Patterns of use are highly variable and warrant tailored interventions that address local needs and issues [5].
  2. Utilisation of specialist and non-specialist healthcare services for alcohol and other drug problems in South Australia – the report examines the patterns and prevalence of episodes of AOD-related help seeking, intervention and/or treatment across South Australia [6].
  3. Drugs of concern for select at-risk groups in South Australia – the report examines at-risk population groups in both PHNs (in addition to the at-risk groups identified in the National Drug Strategy 2017-2026) along with the drugs of concern for those groups.

What will it mean?

The findings from NCETA’s data analyses are being used by the Adelaide and Country SA PHNs to identify the patterns and of nature of AOD use, the dynamics of at-risk groups and the level of utilisation and the type of current AOD services that are available. The PHNs will also incorporate the findings into their ongoing needs assessments and will use them to determine the future commissioning of services.



  1. AIHW. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Drug statistics series no. 28. Cat. no. PHE 183. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. White, V., & Williams, T. (2015). Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco in 2014. Melbourne: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria.
  3. AIHW. (2016). Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2014–15. Drug treatment series no. 27. Cat. no. HSE 173. Canberra: AIHW.
  4. Stafford, J. and Breen, C. (2016). Australian Drug Trends 2015. Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). Australian Drug Trend Series. No. 145. Sydney, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Australia.
  5. Roche, A.M., Fischer, J., Nicholas, R., Kostadinov, V. (2016). Alcohol and Other Drug Use in South Australia: Patterns and Prevalence. Summary Report - One. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders University, Adelaide South Australia.
  6. Roche, A. M., McEntee, A., Fischer, J., Duraisingam, V., & Kostadinov, V. (2017). Utilisation of Specialist and Non-Specialist Healthcare Services for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems in South Australia. Adelaide, South Australia: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University.