Drugs in Australia

Posted: February 21, 2017

Officially referred to as the Commonwealth of Australia, it is a country comprising of numerous Islands, the Island of Tasmania, and the mainland of the Australian continent. By total area, Australia is the second largest country in the world. It neighbors Indonesia, Papuan New Guinea, East Timor, New Zealand, the Solomon’s Islands, and Vanuatu.

In Australia, illicit drug use is the misuse of prohibited substances, for example, opiates, stimulants, cannabis, tranquilizers and painkillers, stimulants, as well as other substances (National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, 2010). According to the Australian Community Organizations as well as the government, the illegal use of drugs is not only a health issue but a social issue as well. It creates an annual illegal market estimated at $6 billion (Andrews & Kinner, 2010).

Before the Australian federation, very little policies had been developed to regulate the use of illicit substances by the people. Particular drugs, for example, Opium were regulated through particular trade laws. A majority of government interventions as at that particular time took the form of warnings which were mainly aimed at preventing deaths that were related to overdosing. However, following the Word War One, the Versailles, and the Hague Conference, the Australian government began to adopt new international agreements on drug use.

Policies on drug use in Australia further got influenced by the United States of America (U. S. A), This was mainly because of the United States of America’s increasing participation in the formulation of the United Nations policies as well as the being one of the major contributors in the United Nations (UN) budget. This particular research is aimed at describing the drug patterns in Australia, what drugs are mainly used and which among them are legal and illegal. This research shall narrow down to a specific illegal drug, that is, Dimethyltryptamine, who are mainly using this illegal substance and what is their social status, and why the illegal use of drugs and substances is perceived as a problem in society.

Drug Use Patterns in Australia

It is important to put in mind that the Australian government has sponsored a series of surveys commonly referred to as the National Campaign against Drug Abuse and Social Issues and since the year 1985, there have been subsequent surveys (Adhikari & Summerill, 2000).  The results and reports generated by this survey help formulate policies aimed at influencing changes in the prevalence, attitudes, and to be more specific the patterns of drug use in the country. Over the years these surveys have helped gather valid and useful information that has been used to shape policies that control the use of drugs for non-medical purposes in Australia. A survey conducted in the year 1994 revealed that the experimental use of illicit drugs was spreading across the country (Hall et al, 1998).

Drugs Commonly Used

The drug that was commonly used by many in Australia was marijuana and this was mainly among the Strait Torres Islanders and the Aboriginals (Australian Drug Foundation, 2011). In 1997, it was concluded that males are more likely to suffer from disorders related to the illegal use of drugs than females (National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, 2010).  Additionally, it was common among members of the middle and lower social class, a majority of them being unemployed and not married (Hall et al, 1998). Of all drugs used in the country, alcohol is the most common and data indicates that over 86% of Australians aged 14years and above have consumed alcohol (Drug Info, 2016). Below is a list of the drugs commonly taken in Australia, it narrows down to one specific drug by the name Dimethyltryptamine.


From 2013 to 2014, 7.5% of all Australians had used analgesics without medical prescription. In the year 2013, 4.5% of the total population in Australia aged 14years and above had used sleeping pills and tranquilizers mainly benzodiazepines for non-medical reasons more than once in their life (Drug Info, 2016). 20 % of Australia’s population aged 16 years and above chew the betel nut in different forms making it the fourth commonly used psychoactive drug in Australia after alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine


Caffeine is also widely used in Australia and in the year 2006, it was reported that about 1.2 billion cups of caffeine were consumed every year in both restaurants and cafés. 290 calls were made in the year 2006 to the poison information line of the NSW concerning toxicity in caffeine drinks (Wenlong & Gunja, 2013).


According to a survey conducted in the year 1998, almost 40% of the Australian teenagers had at one time in their lives used Cannabis Sativa (Adhikari & Summerill, 2000). 34% of Australians aged 14years and above use to take cannabis. According to the information provided, it is clear that most of them first get to try the drug at the age of 16, however, 14% of the 12 to 17years olds in the country have already tried the drug (Drug Info, 2016).


8% of the total mature population in Australia use cocaine while the younger population first starts to use the drug at the average age of 18.5 years. 1.5% of young people in the country aged between 12 to 17 years of age take cocaine and have used it more than once in their life (National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, 2010).


Ecstasy is another famous substance used in Australia with 9% of the Australians aged 14 years and above having used it more than once in their lives. Young Australians aged 14 to 2 4years old first try the drug at the average age of 18 (Drug Info, 2016).


Between the years 2000 and 2011, there were more than 130 reported deaths related to fentanyl. In the reports, over 90% of the victims died after injecting themselves with this drug. A majority of these deaths were mainly among people aged 40 to 50 years (Drug Info, 2016). 9% of Australians are reported to use hallucinogens. 1.2% of the younger Australian population try these types of drugs at the age of 12 and to be more specific the LSD.


It is true that Heroin is one of the strongest illicit drugs in the world, however, it is not widely used in Australia. According to the survey, it estimated that only 1.1% of Australians aged 14 years and above use heroin. Young Australians try the drug for the first time at the age of 16 years and it also indicates that 1.7% of the young mainly between 12 to 17years old have tried the drug (Drug Info, 2016). 4% of Australians aged 14years and above have uses inhalants for non-medical purposes more than once in their lives. Despite Kava not being widely known by the Australian authorities in the recent past, this particular survey indicates that its use is also increasing rapidly. In 2002, the survey indicates that 4% of Australians aged 15years and above use Kava and this is mainly among those living in non-remote areas in Australia (Drug Info, 2016).


It still remains unclear to what extent khat is used in Australia. A survey conducted in the year 1993 indicated that in Melbourne, 800 to 1100 people chew khat. There have been stereotypes linked to the use of this particular drug in Australia. The most common stereotype is that khat chewing is mainly a male activity. However, it is now clear that women are now involved in chewing khat. A majority of women who did not use khat in their homelands picked up the habit after arriving in Australia. Meth is one of the highly used drugs in the country with over 7% of Australians aged 14 years and above using it frequently (Drug Info, 2016).


Tobacco is one of the highest used drugs in the country. 40% of Australians aged 14 years and above use the drug. Among the daily smokers, there are more males than females. It is estimated that 1 out of 10 Australians aged 14 years and above smoke tobacco daily. There was a drop in the number of women who smoked when pregnant from 14% in 2011 to 12% in 2012. Off all the mothers smoking, 11% of them were teenagers with most of them smoking during pregnancy (Wenlong & Gunja, 2013).


Dimethyltryptamine belongs to the tryptamine family. Throughout history, this particular drug has been used by the Amazonian Indian cultures for healing and divine purposes. The drug has come to be misused over the years by various people all over the world. The effects of the drug, when abused, are devastating especially on an individual’s mental health. It is because of this particular effect that laws have been passed to control its access. The drug can be administered through various means and these include injecting, inhalation, and oral ingestion. It is important to note that in 2011, the Australia authorities classified all plants containing DMT in the country as controlled plants (Drug Info, 2016). Until now, DMT has been listed among the top 9 prohibited drugs in Australia under the schedule 9 (National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, 2010). Currently, the Australian government is relying on the criminal justice approach. The approach has had a great impact on the use of the drug and its use has decreased over the years. The United States of America has greatly influenced the United Nations (UN) in its policies regarding the control of DMT and since 1971 the UN has classified DMT as a controlled drug purely restricted to medical and scientific purposes (Hall et al, 1998). It can be seen that the use of drugs for non-medical reasons in Australia is on a high increase. A majority of these deaths were as a result of the use of simple opioids, as well as, alcohol. Of all illegal drugs in Australia, Amphetamines have the second highest death rate in Australia (Andrews & Kinner, 2010).

Legal and Illegal Drugs in Australia

There are a number of both legal and illegal drugs in Australia and even though the use of particular substances may be seen as right or not appropriate, it is important to note that there are drugs that are in between these two categories. For those that are legal, there are set laws in the country that restrict their sale as well as use, however, others are just illegal to produce, distribute, and use.

Legal but Restricted Drugs

Alcohol is a restricted drug in Australia, however, there are two laws governing how alcohol is to be used within the country. In particular areas in Australia, local laws make it a crime to take alcohol in public, for example, parks and beaches. It is also considered a great offense for an Australian aged below 18years old to buy and consume alcohol. In Australia, it is against the law to supply people under the age of 18 years with alcohol (Drug Info, 2016).

The use of amphetamines is not allowed not unless when prescribed by a medical professional and for medical reasons. Processing, selling, using, and driving having taken amphetamines without a doctor’s prescription comes with heavy penalties in Australia. There are many elements in a betel nut, however, the most active ingredient is arecoline which is a poison. This makes it illegal and wrong to poses it without a doctor’s prescription. In Australia, the use of inhalants is not a criminal activity. However, over the years, the police have made efforts to intervene in inhalant use by making sure that they arrest people who are misusing inhalants. Additionally, it is illegal to sell inhalants to people if they are not to be used for their intended purpose.

Kava is not illegal in Australia, however, its import and advertisement are closely monitored by government officials. However, since 2007, the commercial importation of kava was stopped, it is now imported only for scientific and medical purposes (Australian Drug Foundation, 2011). The importation of khat for commercial and personal use is illegal and just like kava, it is only imported for scientific and medical purposes. It is against the law to sell and tobacco products to non-adults in Australia. It is illegal for children to use tobacco and its products. It is also wrong to use tobacco products in the public. Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is one of the controlled drugs in Australia. This became so in 2012 when the Australian authorities under the criminal code classified any plants with DMT as controlled plants (Australian Drug Foundation, 2011).

Illegal Products

Below is a list of drugs that are illegal in Australia. The Australian government has strict penalties for driving under their influence, selling, processing, and producing them. They include:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Phencyclidine
  • Cannabis
  • Ecstasy
  • Ice
  • Mephedrone  (Australian Drug Foundation, 2011).)

Drug Abuse Problem to Society

Drug abuse has a number of negative impacts on the family, a person’s health, education, crime, work, and employment. It is true to state that the fast-paced technological, social, and economic changes challenge the stability of as well as the role that the family is supposed to play in society. The family is viewed as the basic unit of the society. It is its source of unity and strength as it provides an avenue for growth and nurturing of individuals.

Families have an influence on an individual and can shape the person’s behavior. However, peer pressure and its influence of taking drugs, makes people take them and the family’s influence cannot compare to its sheer might. In Australia, pressure from peers is strong especially to the teenagers and youth and without keen observance it easily overrides advice from parents and the family in general (Adhikari & Summerill, 2000) It is true that peers are more likely to influence each other in taking drugs and this shows that drug use by peers may pose greater influence than the attitudes of parents.

Once a member of a family starts taking drugs or gets addicted to drugs, it greatly affects the operations of the family. It is clear that since the family is the basic unit of any given society, it shall be the first institution to get affected by an individual’s drug talking habit. The members of the family of a drug taker suffer a lot psychologically knowing that one of their own is being wasted away. Many marriages have had to be broken due to drug addiction. Once a marriage is broken a particular aspect of society gets destroyed causing a lot of harm to the society.

The taking of illegal drugs and substances has major negative health implications on an individual and if not addressed on time can make the person unproductive. These health problems not only affect the family but also influence the society as a hole as the productive element of the individual gets destroyed due to the diminishing quality of life (Hall et al, 1998).  Drug taking is mainly associated with disability, disease, as well as dysfunction which greatly affects the productivity of the individual, hence, affecting the society.

Despite education being the main key to fighting drug and substance abuse, the effect of peer influence in schools makes many students start using drugs. This greatly influences their school attendance and a majority of the students drop out of school. Those that manage to finish school end up with poor grades that do not help them land jobs in today’s competitive market. Thus, the society gets filled with a lot of unproductive members who to survive end up engaging in criminal activities. Countries define crime differently, however, when it comes to the issue of drugs, a common structure is provided for by the International drug treaty (Andrews & Kinner, 2010). Drug and substance abuse is illegal because many of the people using them engage criminal activities, for example, being violent, stealing, and raping. Many of them behave this way because drugs impair their judgment, thus, react or respond differently to normal situations. To those under the influence of drugs a particular behavior might appear right but to the general society, it appears wrong. It is clear that drugs affect individuals in different ways. Depending on how they are affected their lack of effective performance makes them less productive members of society.


In Australia, there are two categories of drugs and these are legal substances with restrictions and illegal drugs. Drugs with restrictions are substances that are strictly monitored by the Australian government. Illegal substances are drugs which the Australian government has a set of penalties to those found producing, distributing, and using the drugs. DMT is one of the drugs misused in Australia and the Australian government has put up measures to control its access. The U. S. has also influenced the strategies controlling the access of DMT by playing a major role in the formulation of UN policies against the DMT. The misuse of drugs is a burden to society because it generally renders the drug users unproductive.

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