National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011

6. Comparisons of the types of substances used by students in 2011

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So far, this report has concentrated on the separate prevalence estimates for each substance. In this section the relative levels of use of the different substances are examined in order to highlight the substances most commonly used by secondary school students. Lifetime use and past month use are focused upon. Lifetime use provides an indication of the extent to which students have had contact with the substance, and the extent to which the substance may have been used in the past, even though they may no longer be using it. Past month use gives an indication of the recency of use and suggests current access to, and involvement with, the substance.

Figure 6.1 shows the proportion of students in three age groups who in 2011 reported having used each of the various substances in their lifetime. Students of all ages have most experience with the legal substances: analgesics, alcohol and tobacco. Analgesics were the most widely used substance, with over 90% of students in all three age groups having some experience with them. Experience with alcohol was also high among all age groups, with experience increasing as students move through secondary school. Tobacco was the next most commonly used substance. Experience with tobacco also increased as students progressed through secondary school.

For 16- and 17-year-olds, cannabis was the most widely used illicit substance and was the fourth most widely used substance among older students.

Inhalants were the most commonly used illicit substance among younger students. Again, the unusual pattern where lifetime use of inhalants becomes less common with increasing age is shown in this graph.

Ecstasy, amphetamines and hallucinogens were the next most commonly used illicit substances, and while their use increased with age, among older students 5% or fewer students reported having used these substances in their lifetime. Experience with other illicit drugs was rare across all age groups.

The percentage of students in the three age groups ever using each of the substances in Figure 6.1 is shown in Appendix 5, Table 5A.1 for 2011. For interest, the corresponding percentages found in the 2008 survey are also shown in this table.

Figure 6.2 shows the proportion of students in the three age groups who had used any of the licit and illicit substances in the month prior to the survey. The patterns of substance use seen in Figure 6.1 are also shown in Figure 6.2.

Figure 6.1: Percentage of students in three age groups who had ever used any licit or illicit substance, Australia, 2011


Column graph, showing the percentage of students in three age groups (12 to 13 years, 14 to 15 years and 16 to 17 years)who had ever used any licit or illicit substance, Australia, 2011Description of Figure 6.1
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Figure 6.2: Percentage of students in three age groups who had used any licit or illicit substance in the past month, Australia, 2011


Percentage of students in three age groups who had used any licit or illicit substance in the past month, Australia, 2011 Description of Figure 6.2
The licit substances were the most commonly used substances. Analgesics had been used by around two-thirds of all students in the past month. Alcohol was the next most commonly used substance, with more students in each age group having used alcohol in the month prior to the survey than any other substance, excluding analgesics. For students 14 years and over, tobacco was the next most commonly used substance in the four weeks preceding the survey.

For students aged 16 and 17, cannabis was the most widely used illicit substance in the previous month.

Appendix 5, Table 5A.2, shows the percentage of students in the three age groups using each of the substances in the previous month for 2011. For interest, the corresponding percentages from the 2008 survey are also shown in
this table.

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