National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015: consultation draft

Performance measures

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Australia has a rich set of data sources relating to alcohol, tobacco, illegal and other drugs. These data sources provide information that contributes towards a better understanding of drug markets, patterns of misuse, the associated harms and patterns of treatment. Under the National Drug Strategy there is a strong commitment to improving data collections and using them to help guide implementation. This part identifies three high-level performance measures that will help gauge progress and guide implementation of the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015. These measures build on existing performance measures identified in other national agreements such as those identified in the National Preventative Health Strategy, the National Healthcare Agreements and the National Homelessness Strategy.

The performance measures are purposely high-level for several reasons. First, data are not always comprehensive enough to provide robust national measures of activity and progress. Second, it is not possible to directly match the objectives of the Strategy, or each drug type, to a performance measure. Finally, the proposed measures use existing published data sources to help ensure continuity of approach. The performance measures are intended to provide a broad indication of progress against the three pillars of the National Drug Strategy 2010-2015.

Performance measure 1: Disruption of illegal drug supply
Performance measure 2: Indicators of drug use
Performance measure 3: Harms associated with drug misuse

Performance measure 1: Disruption of illegal drug supply

Measures which demonstrate progress in disrupting the production and supply of illegal drugs include:
These measures can provide a broad indication of the volume of illegal drugs entering and circulating within Australia, an indication of the extent of the illegal drug supply network, and an indication of law enforcement success in disrupting the production and supply of illegal drugs.

This measure needs to be interpreted in the context of performance measure 2 on prevalence of drug misuse as the scale of illegal drug detections and seizures could reflect the efficiency or intensity of law enforcement services, the effectiveness of detection methods, the availability or supply of drugs, or a combination of all.

Data to support these measures can be sourced from existing data sets published by Australian and State and Territory police agencies, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian Crime Commission.

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Performance measure 2: Indicators of drug use

Prevalence of drug misuse is a rough proxy measure of progress in demand reduction. Under the National Drug Strategy measures of prevalence vary according to drug type.
Progress against this measure will be indicated by falls in prevalence and increases in ages of initiation. However, there is not necessarily a straightforward relationship between prevalence data and success or otherwise in demand reduction strategies. Fluctuations in prevalence may be unrelated to underlying demand. For example, increases in the supply of a particular illegal drug may result in increases in opportunistic use. Prevalence data should be consider alongside other performance measures, and complemented by qualitative and quantitative research and contextual information in order to provide a broad interpretation of the data.

It is also useful to examine prevalence within sub-populations to help guide policy and program responses. For example, in 2007 general population data showed recent misuse of ecstasy as relatively stable, but closer examination showed a significant increase in misuse amongst 14–19 year old females.

Patterns of drug use should also be considered. There may be instances where the general population prevalence for a drug may be decreasing, but amongst regular users the frequency of misuse, and potentially associated harms may be increasing.

Existing published data that will inform this performance measure include: the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and the National Health Survey for the general population; the Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and other Drug survey for youth specific prevalence measures; and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey for this population group.

Over time, consideration should also be given to including treatment data in this measure, as the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Service National Minimum Dataset is reviewed and enhanced.

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Performance measure 3: Harms associated with drug misuse

Measures of harm associated with drug misuse include:
Decreases and falling trends against all these measures (except community safety perceptions, which the Strategy seeks to improve) would demonstrate progress against this measure.

Again, careful interpretation is needed. For example, a statistical increase in the arrests for drink or drug driving may be related to intensification of police operations rather than an actual increase in these behaviours.

Comprehensive national data are not available on all of these measures. Existing data sets published include State and Territory policing data, and Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports. National surveys such as the National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing, as well as commissioned research on social costs of drug misuse will help inform these measures.

The National Drug Research and Data Working Group will prepare an annual report on data against these measures for inclusion in the annual report of the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs.

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