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

4.7 Crime and AOD use

Page last updated: 2004

Illicit drug use among the general population
Patterns of cannabis use
Other illicit drug use
Comparing your workplace experience
Your community profile

Illicit drug use among the general population

The following figure has been included as an example of the information that is available.

Figure 7: Summary of drug use in the preceding 12 months: proportion of the population aged 14 years and over, Australia wide, 1998

Text equivalent below for Figure 7: Summary of drug use in the preceding 12 months: proportion of the population aged 14 years and over, Australia wide, 1998

(Source: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 1998.)
a For non-medical purposes.

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Text version of Figure 7

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.

Summary of drug use in the preceding 12 months, 1998:
  • Marijuana/cannabis - 18%
  • Pain-killers/analgesics - 6%
  • Tranquilisers/sleeping pills (for non-medical purposes) - 3%
  • Steroids - <1%
  • Barbituratesa - <1%
  • Inhalants -1%
  • Heroin - 1%
  • Methadone (for non-medical purposes) - <1%
  • Amphetamines (for non-medical purposes) - 4%
  • Cocaine/crack - 1%
  • LSD/synthetic hallucinogens - 3%
  • Ecstasy/designer drugs - 2%
  • Injected illegal drugs -1%
  • Never used any illicit drug - 23%
  • None of the above - 77%

Patterns of cannabis use

Like adults, the most popular illicit drug among young people is cannabis. Cannabis is used much more widely than other drugs by young people (except at ages of under 14, where inhalant use is more popular) probably because of its easy availability and low cost factors which have a strong impact on drug use.

Cannabis use and young people in Australia

Young people:
  • are more likely to smoke hydro cannabis with a bong (water pipe), while older Australians tend to use joints
  • tend to smoke stronger potency cannabis (hydro or head), while older adults tend to smoke leaf, which is less potent.
  • report that they obtain cannabis from friends or acquaintances, as opposed to a street dealer (85-90 percent).
Note: The level of cannabis use declines in people over 25.

Question - Where are young people most likely to smoke cannabis?

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

Other illicit drug use

When young people use drugs, they tend not to inject - they are more likely to smoke, swallow, snort or inhale. Injecting drugs appears to be a barrier for many young people.

Next to cannabis, the most popular illicit drugs for young Australians are:
  • inhalants - especially among those under 16
  • benzodiazepines (prescribed sedatives)
  • amphetamines - which are usually snorted
  • ecstasy - taken as a tablet
  • hallucinogens (aka trips) - LSD is usually dissolved on a tiny piece of paper which is swallowed.

Injecting drug use

Injecting drug use has increased significantly in recent years, but remains relatively rare among the general population of under 20's in Australia. Less than 1.4 percent of 14-19-yearolds injected illicit drugs in 2001.

Lifetime injecting rises to almost 7 percent for Australians 20-29 years, still well below rates of cannabis use. While the rates of injecting drug use remains relatively low in mainstream youth culture, injecting drugs can result in serous harms, including overdose, Hepatitis C and criminal activity (to finance the cost of drugs).


In recent years there has been much community concern about the level of heroin use and overdose. This concern has been reflected and/or fuelled by attention by the media and by politicians. Drug Summits have been held in NSW and Western Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

With the level of concern that has been shown, one would expect that the use of heroin among young people would be very high. This is not true. Use of heroin among 14-19-yearolds, that is used at least once in a lifetime is 0.7 percent for males and 1.1 percent for females. A slightly higher incidence is prevalent for 20-29-year-olds showing males use at 5.2 percent and females at 2.0 percent in the year 2001.

Comparing your workplace experience

Brainstorm/group activity

Question - Does the information contained in this module fit with your experiences with young people? What substances are commonly used by the young people you know or work with? (Discuss some ideas with your colleagues or in groups.)

Your community profile

Complete the profile of your community by bringing together all the information you have collected and putting it in a folder. It will give you a clear picture of your local community and it will be useful in supporting your arguments for new or more appropriate services.
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  • Legal drug use such as alcohol and tobacco consumption among young people is very common and remains a major problem in Australia

  • The media portrays alcoholic beverages as being sexy and sophisticated and aims to target a young population, contrary to tobacco advertising which has ceased throughout Australia

  • Nearly one in five deaths in Australia are drugrelated. Some AOD-related health consequences for young people include road traffic injuries, assault, depression, overdose and infectious diseases

  • Statistics claim there is a strong link between alcohol use and crime in young people

  • Statistics indicate that young people with psychological disorders are more likely to misuse alcohol and other drugs and have a higher prevalence of psychological disorders.