The Australian experience

Smoking, alcohol, licit and illicit drug use combined in 2004-05 cost the Australian community $54 billion, comprising $31 billion due to tobacco, $15 billion to alcohol and $8 billion to illicit drugs (Collins & Lapsley 2008).

In 2010, it was estimated that tobacco smoking was responsible for 8.3% of the burden of disease in Australasia, 2.7% was attributable to alcohol use and 2.6% to illicit drugs (AIHW 2014).

The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (AIHW 2014) collected information from people across Australia on their use, attitudes and opinions regarding their alcohol and drug use. Key findings from the survey showed:

  • Alcohol – fewer people in 2013 drank alcohol in harmful quantities; the proportion of young people abstaining from alcohol rose
  • Illicit Drug use – there were declines in the use of ecstasy, heroin and GHB. There was a rise in the misuse of pharmaceuticals.
  • Meth/amphetamine – while the use of amphetamine did not increase (stable at 2.1%) there was a change in the main form used with ice replacing powder.

So although there may not be significantly more people using amphetamines, those that do are using a much stronger, purer substance – Ice – and are using it more often. This has led to a significant increase in harms to the user and the community.

In Australia it is estimated that alcohol use contributes to 5% of all workplace deaths and 4% to 11% of all non-fatal workplace injuries (Pidd et al. 2006a). Lost productivity in the workplace attributable to alcohol costs $3.5 billion annually (VicHealth 2012), with alcohol related absenteeism estimated at being between $437 million and $1.2 billion (Pidd et al. 2006b). Data concerning other drug related injuries is scarce, however the combination of alcohol and other drugs (excluding tobacco) in the financial year 2004-05 accounted for approximately $5.2 billion in lost productivity costs (Collins & Lapsley 2008).


Collins DJ & Lapsley HM. 2008, The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use to Australian Society in 2005/05, Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra
AIHW 2014, National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Canberra
Pidd, Berry, Harrison Roche, Driscoll, Newson (2006a), Alcohol and work: Patterns of use workplace culture and safety, AIHW, Adelaide
VicHealth (2012), Reducing alcohol related harm in the workplace (an evidence review: full report), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne
Pidd, Berry, Roche, Harrison et al (2006b), ‘Estimating the cost of alcohol related absenteeism in the Australian workforce: The importance of consumption patterns’, Medical Journal of Australia, Sydney

Research organisations



NCETA is the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction and is an internationally recognised research centre. They have published extensively on alcohol and other drug issues in society and are leading researchers on alcohol and other drugs in the workplace.



VAADA is the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association. Their website contains a wide range of publications concerned with current alcohol and other drug issues that are relevant around the country. Topics they discuss include workplace drug and alcohol testing (PDF 196kb), family violence PDF 233kb), and alcohol advertising (PDF 137kb)

Incolink Foundation Fund

Incolink conducts a range of research in the Victorian Building and Construction Industry. The research targets a range of industry workers to enable the constant development of better practice and evidence-based intervention.