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A substance abuse disorder involves a pattern of substance use that results in an impairment or distress in daily activities1. For example, individuals with a substance abuse disorder commonly have repeatedly failed to stop using the substance, used more than planned, experienced craving for or withdrawal from the substance and/or, continued to use a substance despite its negative impact on their lives1. ‘Substance’ can refer to: alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, sedatives, hypnotics, anxiolytics, stimulants, tobacco, and other or unknown substances1. Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are the substances most frequently used by young people2.

Substance abuse disorders are among the most common mental health disorders experienced by young people in Australia and the fourth highest contributor to the burden of disease in this age group 3,4.

There is evidence that substance abuse can be reduced by addressing relevant risk factors such as early exposure to a substance or poor mental health, and by increasing protective factors such as early patterns of healthy behaviours5,6. Being able to understand rates of substance abuse disorder within geographical area therefore has the advantage of allowing policy makers and service providers to make informed choices when working to improve outcomes. Using this data alongside other social information (such an unemployment and income) could be especially important as a range of social factors are risk factors associated with alcohol and drug abuse6.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub; 2013.
  2. White V, Bariola E. Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the counter and illicit substances in 2011. Cancer Council of Victoria, 2012 [cited 2018 May 23]. Available from:$File/National%20Report_FINAL_ASSAD_7.12.pdf
  3. Gore F, Bloem J, Patton G, Ferguson J, Joseph V, Coffey C, et al. Global burden of disease in young people aged 10-24 years: a systematic analysis. The Lancet, 2011; 377(9783): 2093-2102. Available from:
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [Internet]. Canberra ACT. Impact of alcohol and illicit drug use on the burden of disease and injury in Australia: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011. [cited 2018 May 29]. Available from:
  5. Bränström R, Sjöström E, Andréasson S. Individual, group and community risk and protective factors for alcohol and drug use among Swedish adolescents. European Journal of Public Health, 2007; 18(1):12-8. Available from:
  6. Hawkins JD, Catalano RF, Miller JY. Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 1992; 112(1):64. Available from:

Data Source 

Hospital Morbidity Data Collection, Emergency Department Data Collection, Mental Health Information System


Number of substance abuse disorder diagnoses from population aged 0-18 years


Population aged 0-18 years

Unit of Measure 

Per 10,000 population



Data Confidentiality

Areas with count values 1 to 4 and where population is less than 50 have been supressed.


Emergency Department data only available from 2002 onwards.

Includes public and private hospital records and public outpatient records only. Individuals presenting to private outpatient clinics and/or GP only are not included. Untreated/undiagnosed substance abuse disorders also not captured.

Substance abuse disorder diagnoses were identified using the following ICD classification codes:

ICD-9 Codes

ICD-10 Codes