National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

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

5.1 Analgesics

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Table 5.1 illustrates the use of analgesics over lifetime, past year, past month and past week by age and gender.

Table 5.1: Analgesics: Percentage of students in each age and gender grouping using analgesics in each recency category, Australia, 2011#

Never used
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
7.3
6.4
4.1
3.9
4.2
3.5
5.0
Females
5.1
3.1
2.2
1.9
1.5
1.9
2.7
Total
6.2
4.8
3.2
2.9
2.8
2.7
3.8
Ever used
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
92.7
93.6
95.9
96.1
95.8
96.5
95.0
Females
94.9
96.9
97.8
98.1
98.5
98.1
97.3
Total
93.8
95.2
96.8
97.1
97.2
97.3
96.2
Past year
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
89.1
89.9
91.4
92.6
92.6
92.0
91.2
Females
91.6
94.4
95.4
96.9
97.3
96.6
95.3
Total
90.4
92.1
93.4
94.7
95.0
94.4
93.3
Past month
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
60.3
58.6
61.2
63.6
62.8
64.2
61.7
Females
64.8
71.2
77.6
80.9
82.1
83.8
76.5
Total
62.6
64.9
69.4
72.3
72.6
74.4
69.1
Past week
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
32.7
31.4
31.2
34.2
33.0
34.3
32.7
Females
33.5
39.3
44.8
49.1
53.2
52.9
45.2
Total
33.1
35.3
38.0
41.6
43.3
44.0
39.0

# Prevalence estimates are within  3.3% of the true population values (see section 2.6). See Appendix 4 for 95% Confidence interval estimates for different proportions for each age and gender group.

The reported use of substances such as Panadol among secondary school students was extremely high. Among the entire sample, only four per cent of students had never used these medications.

Over two-thirds of all students had used analgesics in the past month.

The proportion of students using analgesics in the week before the survey increased from 33% of 12-year-olds to 43% of 16-year-olds and 44% of 17-yearolds. This age increase was more marked among females than males.

At all ages, females were significantly more likely to have used analgesics in their lifetime, in the past year and past month. Females were more likely to have used analgesics in the past week at all ages except 12 years of age.

Regularity of use: Of the students who had used analgesics in the past year, 52% of females and 45% of males had used analgesics 10 or more times in the previous year. Only 16% of males and 11% of females had used analgesics once or twice in the past year.

Among male students who had used analgesics in the past week, 70% had used them only once or twice, while 19% had used them 3–5 times in the previous week. Among females who had used analgesics in the past week, 69% had used them once or twice and 22% had used them 3–5 times.

Figure 5.1 shows for all males and female students the proportion who had used analgesics regularly (10 or more times in the past year).

Figure 5.1: Percentage of male and female students in each age group using analgesics 10 or more times in the past year, Australia, 2011


Column graph shows for all males and female students the proportion who had used analgesics regularly (10 or more times in the past year). Horizontal line showing the age in years against the vertical line showing the percentage who had used analgesics Description of Figure 5.1
While the proportion of students using analgesics regularly, increased with age for both males and females, the increase for females was greater than that for males. While among 12-year-olds roughly the same proportion of males and females used analgesics regularly, by 14 years of age significantly more females than males were regular users of analgesics.

The results indicate that the use of analgesics was extremely common among secondary school students. Use in the past week increases with age, so that use in this time period was higher among older students. Use of analgesics in 2011 was more common among female than male students.

Table 5.2 shows the most common reasons for using the last analgesic among students who had used analgesics in the past year.

Table 5.2: The main reasons for using the last analgesic among students using analgesics in the past year (multiple responses allowed), Australia, 2011*

Headache/

migraine

12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
49.4
53.6
55.6
54.8
56.7
56.0
54.4
Females
50.4
51.5
59.7
54.2
54.7
56.1
52.7
Total
49.9
52.5
52.6
54.5
55.7
56.0
53.5
Relief of Cold/’Flue symptoms
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
32.8
31.1
26.9
29.0
25.5
28.8
29.0
Females
28.5
28.4
22.8
23.0
20.9
18.5
23.8
Total
30.6
29.7
24.8
26.0
23.1
23.3
26.3
Toothache/Dental work pain
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
3.0
4.2
5.7
3.9
5.0
3.9
4.3
Females
7.7
6.7
8.1
6.4
5.0
4.7
6.5
Total
5.4
5.5
6.9
5.2
5.0
4.3
5.5
Menstrual pain
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Females
2.5
6.6
9.8
11.3
12.7
13.5
9.3
Total
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Pains from sport injury/strains
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

6 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
13.5
12.9
14.0
14.8
14.8
15.1
14.2
Females
6.6
9.0
9.3
7.7
8.5
6.4
8.0
Total
9.9
10.9
11.6
11.2
11.5
10.5
11.0

* Base: students using analgesics in past year.

The most common reason for analgesic use for males and females was to help ease the pain associated with a headache/migraine while the second most common reason was to help ease symptoms of a cold or ‘flu. At each age more males than females reported using analgesics to help relieve pain from a sports injury. Just under 10% of females reported using analgesics to help with menstrual pain.

Table 5.3 shows the most common ways students who used analgesics in the past year accessed them.

Table 5.3: Most common sources of analgesics for those students who used analgesics in the past year, Australia, 2011*

Parents
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

4 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
93.1
93.5
89.9
90.2
84.7
82.3
89.2
Females
93.1
92.5
88.5
84.1
81.3
75.3
86.1
Total
93.1
93.0
89.2
87.1
82..9
78.6
87.6
Took from home
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
1.1
2.1
4.1
4.4
5.8
7.4
4.0
Females
0.7
1.8
3.8
5.1
6.7
6.8
4.1
Total
0.9
1.9
4.0
4.7
6.3
7.1
4.1
Bought
12 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
0.1
0.6
1.1
2.0
3.8
6.2
2.1
Females
0.5
0.3
1.8
4.9
6.5
12.6
4.2
Total
0.3
0.4
1.4
3.5
5.2
9.6
3.2
Friends
2 yrs

(%)

13 yrs

(%)

14 yrs

(%)

15 yrs

(%)

16 yrs

(%)

17 yrs

(%)

Total

(%)

Males
0.3
0.5
0.2
0.8
0.8
1.1
0.6
Females
0.7
1.0
1.5
2.6
1.7
1.6
1.5
Total
0.5
0.8
0.9
1.7
1.3
1.4
1.1

* Base: students using analgesics in past year.

In 2011 adolescents who had used analgesics in the past year mainly obtained the analgesics they used from their parents (88%).

Around four per cent of students took the analgesic from home without permission and around three per cent reported buying the analgesic. Females aged 15 years and over were more likely to report buying analgesics than were males of the same age.

5.1.1 Changes in the prevalence of analgesic use between 2005 and 2011

Table 5.4 presents the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds, 16- to 17-year-olds, and 12- to 17-year-olds who had used analgesics in their lifetime, in the past month and in the past week in each survey year between 2005 and 2011.

Table 5.4: Percentage of students using analgesics in their lifetime, in the past month and in the past week in 2005, 2008 and 2011, Australia

12 to 15 years

Lifetime
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
92.4**
93.3
94.6
Females
95.7**
96.6
96.9
Total
94.0**
95.0
95.7

16 to 17 years

Lifetime
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
95.6
95.2
96.1
Females
98.1
98.0
98.3
Total
96.9
96.6
97.2

Total

Lifetime
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
93.2**
93.8
95.0
Females
96.4
97.0
97.3
Total
94.8**
95.4
96.2

12 to 15 years

Past month
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
62.3
63.2
60.9
Females
74.2
74.2
73.7
Total
68.2
68.6
67.3

16 to 17 years

Past month
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
65.0
63.7
63.4
Females
81.9
83.1
82.9
Total
73.7
73.6
73.4

Total

Past month
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
63.0
63.3
61.7
Females
76.4
76.8
76.5
Total
69.7
70.0
69.1

12 to 15 years

Past week
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
34.6
34.7
32.3
Females
44.3
44.8**
41.8
Total
39.4
39.7**
37.1

16 to 17 years

Past week
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
34.2
33.7
33.6
Females
50.7
51.6
53.1
Total
42.7
42.9
43.6

Total

Past week
2005

(%)

2008

(%)

2011

(%)

Males
34.5
34.4
32.7
Females
46.1
46.8
45.2
Total
40.3
40.6
39.0

** Significantly different from 2011 at p <0.01.

The proportion of younger students using analgesics in their lifetime and in the past month in 2011 was similar to the proportions found in 2008. The proportions using analgesics in their lifetime in 2011 was higher than the proportion found in 2005. The proportion of younger students using analgesics in the past week in2011 was lower than in 2008 (p<0.01).

There was no change in the proportion of older students using analgesics between 2005 and 2011 in any recency period.

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