The mental health of Australians 2

6. Substance use disorders in Australia

Page last updated: May 2009

Disorders relating to the use of alcohol or drugs necessarily require the consumption of alcohol or drugs above a certain level. However, this use is not sufficient alone for a person to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Typically substance use disorders involve impaired control over the use of these substances, with continued use despite considerable psychological and physical problems.

Both types of substance use disorders, namely harmful use and dependence, were covered in the survey. Harmful use requires the use of a substance to be responsible for physical or psychological harm and may lead to disability or a breakdown in interpersonal relationships. Dependence is associated with symptoms such as becoming tolerant to the effects of alcohol or drugs, characteristic withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol or drug use, drinking or using drugs in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended and unsuccessful efforts to decrease or cut down on use.

Diagnoses of substance harmful use and substance dependence were derived for alcohol, as well as for four separate drug classes: cannabis, sedatives, stimulants and opioids.