National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015

1. About the National Drug Strategy

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The National Drug Strategy provides a national framework for action to minimise the harms to individuals, families and communities from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

At the heart of the framework are the three pillars of demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction, which are applied together to minimise harm. Prevention is an integral theme across the pillars.

The 2010–2015 framework builds on longstanding partnerships between the health and law enforcement sectors and seeks to engage all levels and parts of government, the non-government sector and the community.

Australia has had a coordinated national policy for addressing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs since 1985 when the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse was developed. In 1993 it was renamed the National Drug Strategy. This 2010–2015 iteration is the sixth time the strategy has been updated to ensure it remains current and relevant to the contemporary Australian environment.


To build safe and healthy communities by minimising alcohol, tobacco and other drug-related health, social and economic harms among individuals, families and communities.

Throughout this strategy, these terms are used: The term ‘drug’ includes alcohol, tobacco, illegal (also known as ‘illicit’) drugs, pharmaceuticals and other substances that alter brain function, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition and behaviour.
A drug that is prohibited from manufacture, sale or possession—for example cannabis, cocaine, heroin and amphetamine type stimulants (ecstasy, methamphetamines).
A drug that is available from a pharmacy, over-the-counter or by prescription, which may be subject to misuse—for example opioid-based pain relief medications, opioid substitution therapies, benzodiazepines, over-the-counter codeine and steroids.
Other psychoactive substances, legal or illegal, potentially used in a harmful way— for example kava, or inhalants such as petrol, paint or glue.

The harms from drug use

The harms to individuals, families, communities and Australian society as a whole from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is well known.

Harm minimisation

Since the National Drug Strategy began in 1985, harm minimisation has been its overarching approach. This encompasses the three equally important pillars of demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction being applied together in a balanced way.
The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015 seeks to build on this multi-faceted approach which is recognised internationally as playing a critical role in Australia’s success in addressing drug use.

Figure 1: Harm minimisation approach

Text-based description of this image is below.

Text-based description of image:
The diagram is a three column design, with each column containing five separate boxes.

The middle column consists of five boxes. Box 1 is the largest of the diagram and is labelled Harm Minimisation. This box contains three interlinking circles in a triangular pattern labelled Demand Reduction, Supply Reduction and Harm Reduction. Below Box One, Column 2 is four boxes labelled Workforce, Evidence base, Performance measures and Governance. The fifth box also includes the wording "including partnerships and consumer participation".

All boxes in Columns 1 and 3 are equally spaced down the sides of Box 1 and Column 2 and have arrows pointing towards the first box in Column 2.

The first box (Column 1) is labelled Alcohol. The remaining four boxes sit below box 1 and are labelled; Tobacco, Illegal drugs, Pharmaceuticals, and Other substances.

Column 3 consists of 5 boxes that are the same shape and size as Column 1. The first box of Column 3 is labelled Disadvantaged populations with the remaining four boxes below labelled Age/stage of life, Settings, Partnerships, and Other frameworks.

Figure 1 illustrates the approach that will be taken to implement the harm minimisation framework under the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015:
These supporting approaches are covered in Part 3 of the strategy.

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Successes of the National Drug Strategy

Since the inception of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse in 1985, Australia has had major successes in reducing the prevalence of, and harms from, drug use.

Challenges for 2010-2015

Many challenges still remain. The following have been identified as drug-specific priorities for 2010–2015:
There are a number of structural priorities for 2010–2015:

Age and stage of life

It is well recognised that people are at greater risk of harm from drugs at points of life transition. These include transitioning from primary to high school, from high school to tertiary education or the workforce, leaving home and retiring. The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015 recognises the challenge of long-term drug use and misuse among adults and the new challenges that an ageing population may pose.
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Disadvantage and social isolation

Drug use can have a significant impact on disadvantaged groups and lead to intergenerational patterns of disadvantage.
Under the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015, socially inclusive strategies and actions are needed that recognise the particular vulnerabilities and needs of these disadvantaged groups.


Settings-based approaches are also a key feature of the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015.

Priority settings for possible preventive interventions on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs will include families, educational settings, workplaces, licensed premises and communities.

More attention is needed to address drug use among prison populations. This includes addressing supply reduction in the prison environment, reducing demand through education and treatment and approaches for reducing harm. Attention is also needed to help prevent drug use from continuing or recurring when people leave prison.

More focus will also be placed on the internet as an important emerging medium for prevention and treatment approaches and as a potentially effective tool for reaching new or hard to reach settings.


Since its inception the National Drug Strategy has been underpinned by strong partnerships, particularly across the health and law enforcement sectors, between the government and nongovernment sectors, and among policymakers, service providers and experts.

For 2010–2015 the health–law enforcement partnership will remain at the centre of the strategy. However, this partnership will be extended to other sectors as appropriate, including education, particularly to help tackle the more complex causes of, and harms from, drug use in the present environment (see Supporting approaches: Governance).

In relation to alcohol, partnerships continue to be needed with liquor licensing authorities, local governments including town planners and transport authorities and local communities to help reduce potential harms. Collaborative partnerships with business also need to be maintained both for regulatory issues and preventative approaches in workplaces.

Strong partnerships and integrated service approaches with alcohol and other drug treatment, social welfare, income support and job services, housing and homelessness services, mental health care providers and correctional services are needed if people with multiple and complex needs are to be assisted to stabilise their lives, reintegrate with the community and recover from alcohol and other drug-related problems.

Closer integration with child and family services is needed to more effectively recognise and manage the impacts of drug use on families and children.

Ongoing partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are also needed to help reduce the causes, prevalence and harms of alcohol misuse and tobacco and other drug use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Finally, Australia needs to engage in international partnerships to maximise the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts, to learn and share best practice demand, supply and harm reduction approaches and to help enhance our regional neighbours’ efforts to respond to the problem of drug use. Under the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015, Australia will continue to actively engage in multilateral forums for international cooperation on alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues, including the World Health Organization and its implementation of the Global Alcohol Strategy, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service will continue to cooperate with their international counterparts on drug investigations. Australian health and law enforcement agencies and non-government organisations will also continue to engage with developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, to provide assistance on drug-related problems where such assistance is needed.


A number of sub-strategies sit under the umbrella of the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015. These sub-strategies provide direction and context for specific issues, while maintaining the consistent and coordinated approach to addressing drug use, as set out in this strategy. In particular, the National Drug Strategy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Complementary Action Plan was developed to provide national direction on drug-related problems that concern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

During the life of the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015, seven sub-strategies will be updated or developed to address specific priorities: Standing committees and working groups of the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs (see Supporting approaches: Governance) will be responsible for the development of these sub-strategies. Best efforts will be made to synchronise the timing of these sub-strategies.

There are also national strategies and frameworks in other sectors relevant to the work of the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015, where efforts are needed to integrate and leverage complementary approaches. These frameworks are listed in Appendix A.

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