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Alcohol and other drug treatment and diversion from the Australian criminal justice system: 2012-13

14 Oct 2014

Nationally, there were 24,069 clients who had been diverted into alcohol and other drug treatment, comprising 24% of all clients, according to this report.


Throughout Australia, there are programs that divert people who have been apprehended or sentenced for a minor drugs offence from the criminal justice system. Many of these diversions result in people receiving drug treatment services. This report briefly outlines the nature of drug diversion programs in Australia before examining the treatment episodes provided to clients who have been referred to treatment agencies as part of a drug diversion program. It also contrasts those clients with other clients receiving drug treatment. Information on drug treatment services provided in this bulletin is based on data from the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS).

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use is recognised as a major social problem in Australia. Due to the severity and scope of impacts, there are stringent legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks related to drugs and drug use.

While some drugs can be used legally, such as alcohol and tobacco, many are illicit. The term ‘illicit drug’ can encompass a number of broad concepts including:
• illegal drugs—a drug that is prohibited from manufacture, sale or possession in Australia (for example, cannabis, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy)
• misuse, non-medical or extra-medical use of pharmaceuticals—drugs that are available from a pharmacy, over-the-counter or by prescription, which may be subject to misuse (for example, opioid-based pain relief medications, opioid substitution therapies, benzodiazepines, over-the-counter codeine, and steroids)
• other psychoactive substances—legal or illegal, potentially used in a harmful way (for example, kava or inhalants [such as petrol, paint or glue], but not including tobacco or alcohol) (MCDS 2011).

In the 10 years to 2012–13, annual illicit drug offences increased by around 25% nationally, to just over 100,000.

Use of alcohol and other drugs is a substantial contributor to drug-related crime, for example, burglary, assault and public disorder. In a 2009 survey of police detainees, for example, 29% of charges were reported as being attributable to alcohol and 23% to illicit drugs.

Drug-related offenders are subject to a range of penalties within the Australian criminal justice system, ranging from cautions and fines to custodial sentences. While differences exist between states and territories for illicit drug offences, personal or consumer-based offences are generally distinguished from trafficking or producer-based offences. In 2012–13, 82% of illicit drug arrests applied to consumers (83,062 arrests) and 18% to providers (17,120 arrests).

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