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16 Jul. 2020

National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 Northern Territory Results

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 on 16 July 2020.

The Northern Territory Factsheet findings are below. Please note this data does not include any persons under the age of 14 or representation from any remote Indigenous communities. 

  • 1 in 7 smoked tobacco daily
  • 1 in 3 consumed 5 or more drinks in one sitting (at least monthly)
  • 1 in 5 used illicit drugs in the past 12 months
  • More than hald supported testing of drugs/pills at designated sites


The proportion of daily smokers in the NT halved from 2001-2019, the proportion of daily smokers was higher than the national average (11%)


The proportion of people drinking in the NT was higher than the national average. Most people drank alcohol at levels which did not exceed the lifetime risk and single occasion risk (drinking at least monthly) guidelines for reducing the health risks from drinking alcohol. The proportion of people exceeding the lifetime risk guideline has declined since 2007.

In 2019, NT residents were 3 times as likely to be a victim of an alcohol-related incident as an illicit drug-related incident. 

Illicit Drug Use

There is no clear trend in recent illicit drug use since 2007, it has declined from 29% in 2001.

Almost half of respondents supported supervised drug consumption facilities/rooms.

More than 1 in 2 people supported allowing drug users to test their pills/drugs at designated sites to inform them of purity and the substances the drug contained. 

Cannabis remained the most commonly used drug in the NT which has remained the same since 2001. Cocaine and ecstasy use were distant second and third.


Rates of substance use are falling among younger generations

Compared with people their age in 2001, today’s young people are less likely to smoke, drink and use illicit drugs. This may be due to the young people of 2001 carrying on similar habits as they age, today’s young people having different habits from past generations, or a combination.

In 2001, people in their 20s were also the most likely to smoke daily, but in 2019 it was people in their 40s and 50s. Older people were also the most likely to drink alcohol daily in 2019, with the highest rates seen among people aged over 70 (12.6%). Just 1.2% of people aged 20–29 drank daily. Younger people are also now more likely to abstain from alcohol than they were 18 years ago. For example, the proportion of people in their 20s abstaining from alcohol increased from 8.9% in 2001 to 22% in 2019.

More Australians are giving up or reducing their alcohol intake, driven by health concerns

Between 2016 and 2019, the proportion of ex-drinkers rose from 7.6% to 8.9%. There was also a rise in the number of people cutting back on alcohol, with 31% of people saying they had reduced the number of alcoholic drinks they consumed at any 1 time, up from 28% in 2016. The main reason people gave for reducing their intake was ‘health reasons’ (such as weight loss or avoiding hangovers).

Despite this, there has been little change in the proportion of people drinking at risky levels. In 2019, 1 in 4 (25%) people drank at a risky level on a single occasion at least monthly, while about 1 in 6 (16.8%) exceeded the lifetime risk guideline. While the proportion exceeding the single occasion risk and lifetime risk guidelines has remained stable in recent years, it has improved since the guidelines were introduced in 2009 (was 29% and 21% respectively in 2010).

Fewer Indigenous Australians are smoking or drinking at risky levels

Between 2010 and 2019, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoked daily fell from 35% to 25%. Over the same period, the proportion who drank at a risky level on a single occasion at least monthly fell from 46% to 34%, as did the proportion who exceeded the lifetime risk guideline, from 32% to 19%.

Rates of illicit drug use remained fairly stable among Indigenous Australians, but rose for non-Indigenous Australians.

Australians are increasingly supportive of cannabis use and most support pill-testing

In 2019, for the first time, more people said they supported the legalisation of cannabis than opposed it (41% compared with 37%). It was also the first time the proportion of Australians who supported cannabis being used regularly by adults was greater than the proportion that supported regular tobacco smoking (19.6% compared with 15.4%).

Almost 3 in 5 Australians (57%) supported potential drug users being able to test their pills or other drugs at designated sites. There has also been a shift towards education, rather than law enforcement, as the preferred strategy to reduce the use of illicit drugs—when asked where money should be spent, people allocated more funds to education than to law enforcement for the first time in 2019.

Between 2016 and 2019, there was also a decline in support for policies aimed at reducing the problems associated with excessive alcohol use. For example, support for reducing trading hours for pubs and clubs declined from 39% in 2016 to 31% in 2019. More people now oppose reducing trading hours for pubs and clubs than support it (40% compared with 31%).

Smoking rates increase with socioeconomic disadvantage, but illicit drug use highest in the most advantaged areas

While smoking rates have fallen in all socioeconomic areas, the improvement has been greatest among people living in the most advantaged areas. In 2019, after adjusting for differences in age, the proportion of people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas who smoked daily was almost 4 times as high as the proportion of people living in the highest socioeconomic areas (18.1% compared with 5.0%).

On the other hand, compared with people in more disadvantaged areas, people living in the highest socioeconomic areas have the highest rates of recent drug use and are the least likely to have never used an illicit drug. Between 2016 and 2019, rates of recent illicit drug use rose in the highest socioeconomic areas, but remained relatively stable in the other areas.


Please view the entire report here.