At a glance
- 600,000 (14.8%) Queenslanders 14 years or older had used illicit drugs in the previous 12 months, and the majority (500,000) had used cannabis.
- 200,000 (4.0%) Queenslanders 14 years or older used pharmaceuticals not as prescribed or intended in the previous 12 months.
- 700,000 (16.9%) Queenslanders 14 years or older had engaged in either or both types of substance use.
Illicit drug use can be the use of drugs prohibited by law (such as cannabis or cocaine) or the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications not in the way prescribed or intended. Illicit drug use is a significant risk to health and is linked to multiple adverse health outcomes including poisoning, drug use disorders, suicide and self-inflicted injuries, chronic liver disease, and liver cancer.
According to the most recent information available:
- In 2018, illicit drug use accounted for 3.0% of total disease burden (DALY) nationally. Opioid use was the leading illicit drug, contributing to 0.9% of the total burden, followed by amphetamine use (0.7%) and unsafe injecting practices (0.5%).1
- The total cost of illicit drug use to Queensland society in 2004–05 was $1.64 billion (most recent data available) based on national costs applied to Queensland’s population. This includes $1.4 billion in financial costs ($0.04 billion for healthcare, $0.4 billion on lost production and $0.89 billion on crime and road transport injury) and intangible costs of $0.26 billion (early deaths and wellbeing losses).2
In 2019, 16.9% of Queenslanders 14 years and older reported illicit drug use in the previous 12 months.
Adults engaging in illicit drug use were more likely to be:
The most commonly used illicit drug in Queensland in the previous 12 months was cannabis (12.8%), followed by cocaine (3.6%), MDMA (2.6%), hallucinogens (1.3%), and methamphetamine or amphetamine (1.2%). In 2019, 4.0% of Queenslanders 14 years and older reported misuse of pharmaceuticals, and 2.7% reported misuse of analgesics and opioids.3
Figure 1: Illicit drug use by Queenslanders 14 years or older, 2019
|Type of illicit drug use||Proportion (%)|
|Any illicit (excl pharma)||14.8|
|Methamphet- amine and amphetamine||1.2|
Children and youth
In 2017, 8% of Australian high school students 12 to 17 years had used cannabis in the past month and 3% had used sedatives in the past week. Few students had ever used other illicit drugs.4
The percentage of Queenslanders 14 years and older who engaged in illicit drug use in the previous 12 months did not change significantly from 2001 to 2017, and this was true for both sexes and across age groups.
The prevalence of Queenslanders engaged in illicit drug use was similar to the national prevalence. The prevalence of Queenslanders using specific prohibited drugs, or misusing pharmaceuticals, steroids or analgesics, was also similar to national results.
Data and statistics
Summary results from the Queensland preventive health survey (QPHS) for Hospital and Health Services and other regions can be found within this report and more detailed and historical results can be accessed at Preventive health surveys.
Strategies and information
For strategies to reduce illicit substance use and associated harms, see:
- The Department of Health and Aged Care National Drug Strategy
- Queensland Government Achieving balance: The Queensland Alcohol and Other Drugs Plan 2022-2027.
Section technical notes
Where presented, ratios were calculated using higher precision estimates than in text. Ratios calculated using estimates in text may differ.
Data for this section were sourced from:
- National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 (NDSHS) (See National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 for further information
- Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drugs Survey (ASSAD) (See Australian secondary school students alcohol and drug survey for further information).
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2021. Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2018. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 23. Cat. no. BOD 29. Canberra: AIHW. doi: 10.25816/5PS1-J259.
- Collins D.J. & Lapsley H.M. 2008. The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004-05.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2020. National drug strategy household survey 2019. drug statistics series no. 32. PHE 270 . Canberra: AIHW.
- Guerin N. & White V. 2020. ASSAD 2017 Statistics & trends: Australian secondary students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, and illicit substances. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria.