Module 5: young people, society and AOD: learner's workbook

4.6 Information sources on AOD use

Page last updated: 2004

Young people arrested for crime have high rates of AOD use. There is a particularly strong link between alcohol and crime. A significant proportion of the following crimes are committed by offenders affected by alcohol at the time of the offence (Williams, 1989):

  • murder
  • assault - including domestic violence against women
  • sexual assault of adults
  • theft
  • drink driving
Both the perpetrators and victims of alcohol-related violence tend to be young men, with most offences taking place late on Friday and Saturday nights, in or near licensed venues. Alcohol-related violence is also more common in rural communities.

Building a profile of your community
Information sources

Building a profile of your community

In the following series of exercises you will build a comprehensive picture of the young people and drug issues in your local area. You will need to find out about which drugs are used, where they are used and by whom.

Sources of community information

Workplace learning - brainstorm/writing exercise

Question - Think about the sort of information you need to find. Make a list of organisations and services in your local area that might gather relevant statistics.

Answer - (Write your answer, then check the possible answers page.)Top of page

Community location

Question - Where is your community located?

Research shows that young people from outside capital cities in Australia are more likely to drink alcohol heavily than their city based peers (Williams, 1999). This is probably related to a well entrenched heavy drinking culture in the bush, especially among young men. Rates of tobacco use are also higher in rural areas (National Action Plan on Illicit Drugs, 2001).

It is important to note that while these differences in alcohol and tobacco use are significant, the differences in the rates of use between city and country based young people are not large.

When you are examining the statistics for your area, try to keep a look out for differences with the general population. If you live in a regional or isolated area, try to compare your findings with those of a major city.

Community cultural make-up

Brainstorm exercise

Question - What is the cultural makeup of your community? (You can usually get this information from your local council, library or the Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Question - Does your community include many Indigenous Australians? How does the proportion of Indigenous people in your local community compare to the figures for Australia generally? What are the implications (e.g. agency staffing) for your work?

The cultural make-up of your community is obviously very important and will impact on the drug choice of young people in your community.

For example, there is considerable evidence that there are higher rates of smoking tobacco and harmful use of alcohol among Indigenous Australians, compared to other Australians. There are also higher numbers of non-drinkers among the Indigenous population than the broader population. (Drug Statistics, 2000)

While there is a reasonable amount of information available on AOD use among indigenous Australians overall, there is much less information regarding the use of AOD among young Indigenous people. This is partly due to the relatively small numbers of young Indigenous people, as compared to non-Indigenous young people.

While there is a lack of scientific data collected on a large scale, petrol sniffing has been acknowledged as a major problem for some Indigenous communities - especially in rural areas - for over 20 years.Top of page

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups

Question - Does your community include young people from culturally and linguistically diverse groups?

As with indigenous populations, there is little data available on AOD use among young people from CALD groups. Research conducted in the 1990's by the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre in NSW found that there are some distinct differences in AOD use among people (including young people) from cultures where the first language is not English.


  • Overuse of alcohol in Australia is much less common among people from CALD groups compared to Australian-born and English-speaking migrants (Alcohol in Australia, 2001).
  • CALD communities which do tend to drink alcohol regularly (e.g. Italian and Spanish) are more likely to drink in a less harmful pattern (wine daily with meals), compared to the Australian and English tradition of binge drinking in order to get drunk.
  • Alcohol overuse is not common among Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese speaking communities.

Tobacco use

Research by the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre in New South Wales found:
  • smoking is highest among Arabic speakers (at a higher rate than the general community)
  • males in this group are much more likely to smoke than females, but this gender difference reduces with younger people.
  • smoking was lowest among Chinese speaking communities, again with women smoking at much lower levels than men.

Young people with psychological disorders

The results from the Australian Survey of Mental Health and Well Being (1997) Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that people (including young people) with psychological disorders are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Among young people in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, there is a high prevalence of psychological disorders including:
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • conduct disorder
  • personality disorders
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • schizophrenia
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
It must be noted that many homeless young people have not been diagnosed and use AOD to self-medicate.Top of page

Information sources

Workplace learning activity

From your local Area Health Service, find out how many young people in your local area suffer from the disorders listed above.

Drug information sources

Question - What sort of drugs are used by young people in your area? There are a large number of resources available for accessing information about patterns and prevalence of AOD use in the general community. Survey reports are a good source of information about drug use. Surveys are conducted by a variety of organisations on a regular basis.

Obtaining survey reports

Most survey reports can be downloaded from the Internet. For example, the Australian Drug Foundation has a comprehensive list of links to sites where surveys can be viewed and printed. Likewise, most state health departments supply data on AOD use which can often be accessed on their websites.

The librarian at your local library or at your workplace will assist you in obtaining paper copies if you do not have access to the Internet.

Other sources of information

In addition to survey reports, there are many other sources of information about drug use which including:
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) which conducts and publishes numerous studies relating to patterns and prevalence of AOD use
  • mortality and morbidity (death and sickness) data from state and federal health departments
  • Australian Institute of Criminology
  • police arrest data
  • ambulance data
  • methadone client urine testing data
  • the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) publishes regular reports on the use, availability and price of illicit drugs
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publishes reports on the health of Australians
  • Australian customs reports on illicit drug seizures
  • Australian Intravenous League (Ivy League) (