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Unveiling the Shadows: Understanding Drug Addiction in Australia


Task: How can a comprehensive understanding of the patterns, causes, and impacts of drug addiction in Australia guide the development of effective interventions and policies to address this pressing issue?


Reflection on Addiction


Australia is witnessing an unfortunate increase in the number of the addicted population using illicit substances. Global research on the concerned topic has identified immense damages due to the increased use of illicit drugs in society. An addict, as far as my own observation found from the surrounding cases I have experienced indirectly, not only harms their own life but exercises major negative influence on the lives of others including people they are close to. Consumption of illicit drugs harms individuals, their families, communities, immediate society, and Australian citizens largely.


The impact of illicit substance abuse creates major health issues, often leading to a burden on the healthcare system. Evidence of the negative social impact of drug abuse is ample in personal experience authenticated by readings of credible sources on the same. Besides the health and social impact of using an illicit drug, the habit affects the economic conditions of individuals and the society at large too. The following sections analyse the impact of using an illicit drug, the patterns of contemporary drug use in Australia, and the legal provisions dedicated to the purpose of addiction control from my own experience of practical encounters and readings.

Contemporary Australian drug use patterns and Harms: Evaluation

Illicit use of drugs and addictive substances has increased diseases, morbidity, and the number of hospitalization following an overdose. Studies conducted by government agencies have indicated to some specific groups of the population are at the higher risk zone in drug abuse. This population finds young people in their teens and twenties more vulnerable to addiction than the other age groups(Papantos&Kafetzopoulos, 2019). Besides the general young population, people with existing mental illness and trauma are quick to engage in addictive substance abuse. The Department of Health Australia has found people suffering from rejection, bully, and abandonment in society due to their gender identity other than cisgender heterosexuality are also more prone to illicit drug abuse (AIHW, 2022). In my personal experience of social interaction with varied community groups, I have found credibility of these research and findings as a common pattern of drug use is evident in these groups of the population. Besides, I have also witnessed increased drug abuse by the low-pay working-class population in underprivileged areas of society. Some common illicit drugs that are popular among the vulnerable population are cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamine genre of hormonal stimulus. In some instances, I have seen people of my age purchasing over-the-counter drugs for pain relief and the common cold such as opioid substitute components, benzodiazepines, steroids, codeine and the like (AIHW, 2022). Addiction to these medicines also falls under different drug addiction patterns in Australia, as substantiated by research and studies.

An interesting fact about the current pattern of drug abuse in Australia has come up in recent studies. The use of psychoactive addictive substances such as kava, synthetic cannabis, and inhalants like glue, painting oils, petrol, kerosene etc increased to a concerning degree among the young population in the last decade. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) revealed a report of drug addiction behaviours and patterns in Australia in 2019, which shows an estimation of 43% of people in their teens and twenties have been exposed to illicit drugs in their life more than once. The total population crosses 9 million (AIHW, 2021). This study includes the use of over-the-counter drugs. Almost 4 million people from the same age groups have been exposed to illicit drugs in the last 12 months. Illicit drug use increased in Australia since 2007, as the reports suggest. Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance with a consumption of nearly 12% among other drugs (AIHW, 2021). Cannabis is followed by Cocaine and other hallucinogens. In recent times a little decline in the use of illicit drugs, especially those over-the-counter non-medicine drugs has been surveyed between 2016 to 2019 (AIHW, 2021). The pattern of drug use in Australia is best understood by the frequency of using different kinds of drugs. Data by the NDSHS survey authority reveals that after Cannabis, the use of non-medical opioids is most common among others. The use of meth as an illicit drug has declined significantly in the last few years in Australia.

Models of Addiction Behaviour: Analysis

These findings indicate serious concerns about the diseases and harms caused by drug abuse among the young population in Australia. The Psychodynamic Model and Biopsychosocial Model of the impact of drug use on the young population suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between psychosocial conditions and addiction patterns (Papantos&Kafetzopoulos, 2019). The psychodynamic model of addiction emphasises the problem of mental illness as one of the key reasons behind the problem. The addicts, according to this model try to medicate on their own in order to avoid experiences of pain and trauma. It is part of an unhealthy coping mechanism for situational distress in the concerned group of people (Alvarez-Monjaras et al., 2019). They have tasted an acquired sense of relief by numbing sensations through addiction. In the process, they grow further illnesses including hallucination, schizophrenia, and amnesia (Alvarez-Monjaras et al., 2019). These diseases are serious psychological concerns affecting the lives of those youths and their family while increasing their negative impact on society. Addiction to hallucinating agents like meth, for instance, increases vulnerability to physiological diseases such as lung and heart-related problems, and cancer. The Biopsychosocial model of addiction therapy indicates the problems of social conditions like poverty, insecure career, and discrimination for racial or gender identities and life (Papantos&Kafetzopoulos, 2019). Personal life experiences such as parental trauma, spouse betrayal, existing terminal illness, abandonment and the like also contribute to the practice of addiction among young people in Australia. In all of these instances, the survivors' needs as social beings are unmet. This inadequacy may include basic needs like food, shelter, security etc.; and advanced needs like belongingness, a sense of community, and self-actualisation through social participation.


The Australian Government is taking specific measures to restrict access to addictive substances in order to address the problem of addiction, especially among the younger generations. The Department of Health and Aged Care has made cannabis, amphetamines, heroin, and ecstasy illegal to be sold and acquired by anyone (ODC, 2022). The Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967 has been amended in 2021 to control the use of illicit substances for medical and other legal purposes and prohibit sell and acquisition of those for personal and commercial purposes by anyone without a valid license (Federal Register, 2022). License and permit for growing, commercially using, and acquiring medical cannabis, for instance, involves a complicated administrative procedure to ensure the authenticity of the requirement. The Criminal Code Act 1995 was amended till 2022 to criminalise the unpermitted use of illicit drugs for any purpose (ODC, 2022). To introduce prohibitory rules on the ground level, the government enacted Customs (Prohibit Exports and Imports) regulation, Narcotic Drug Regulation 2016, and Therapeutic Goods Order No. 93 to outline standards of practice on the use of Cannabis (ODC, 2022). While these laws are effective to control addiction, the Australian government has introduced a helpline number, airport security, crime support, missing person coordination, and police assistance for drug crimes (AFP, 2022). The reduced number of addictions in the last few years in Australia is a result of the implementation of stricter laws and their amendment with continuous studies on research about the pattern of addiction in the country.

Conclusion and Action Plan

The studies, research, and personal anecdotes about drug addiction offer insights into the practical fields of work in multiple areas such as community service, healthcare, mental health facilities, and other welfare functions. During the research, I realised that behind all of these statistical figures, there is a major and deeper cause and effect behind drug addiction in Australia, especially among young people. I found that the models of addiction in terms of their cause-and-effect approach refer to the greater problems of society and individuals rather than the accessibility and availability of illicit substances. As a community service worker or social worker, I shall emphasise the material conditions of an individual if found using an illicit drug regularly. Trauma, to be precise, is the gateway to these addictions according to my analysis of the scenario (McGinty & Barry, 2020). Addressing trauma may need a more culture-sensitive approach to children and the young population. People from non-binary gender groups, for example, suffer from the continuous trauma of rejection and discrimination (Smith, 2021). Hence, reducing their vulnerability to addiction requires the reduction of taboos regarding sexual orientation in society. The same solution applies to people in extreme poverty and suffering from betrayal at different interpersonal levels. Easy access to mental care and social support services will be more effective to reduce addiction in Australia in future.


AFP. (2022). Drug Crime.

AIHW. (2021). National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Alvarez-Monjaras, M., Mayes, L. C., Potenza, M. N., & Rutherford, H. J. (2019). A developmental model of addictions: integrating neurobiological and psychodynamic theories through the lens of attachment. Attachment & human development, 21(6), 616-637.

Federal register. (2022). Federal Register of Legislation. Australian government.

McGinty, E. E., & Barry, C. L. (2020). Stigma reduction to combat the addiction crisis—developing an evidence base. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(14), 1291-1292.

ODC. (2022). Legislation – Office of Drug Control. Australian government.

Papantos, D., &Kafetzopoulos, E. (2019). The biopsychosocial model of addiction. Arh. Hell. Med, 36, 393-411.

Smith, M. A. (2021). Social learning and addiction. Behavioural Brain Research, 398, 112954.


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