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Statistical data in Australia about drug use, including inhalants,  is collected by several agencies at both a federal and state level.  There is a deficit of comprehensive data regarding inhalants users.  It is suggested the data is incomplete due to the fact that many inhalants users may fall outside of the demographic covered by the surveys i.e. not attending school, younger than the target age, or not living at home.   This should be taken into account when considering the data presented in general drug surveys.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011). 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report. Drug statistics series no. 25. Cat. no. PHE 145. Canberra: AIHW. [website]

Key findings:
Inhalants were used by 0.6% of the population in 2010, and, of those who had recently used inhalants, 34.7% did so once a month or more. (p.150). Apart from a spike in 1998, there was relatively no change in the proportion of the population who had used inhalants between 1995 and 2007. Recent use of inhalants increased in 2010 and this was mostly due to a statistically significant increase by females. (p.151)
A higher proportion of males (4.4%) than females (3.1%) had used inhalants in their lifetime, but males (07%) recorded only a slightly higher proportion than females (05%) for recent use. (p. 152)
The use of inhalants was low in older age groups, with the highest proportion of users being aged 20–29 years (1.4%) followed by those aged 12–19 years (1.0%). (p.153)
Among recent users of inhalants, 52.7% used once or twice a year and 34.7% used at least once a month, with males were more likely than females to use inhalants more often. (p.153)
Of people aged 14 years or older, just under half perceived inhalants (48.3%) and over-the-counter pain-killers/analgesics (48.0%) to be the easiest illicit drugs to obtain, followed by cannabis (36.5%). (p.156)

National Drug Strategy Unit, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (2012) Australian secondary school students’ use of over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011.  [website]

"Reported use of inhalants was more common among younger than older students. While 17% of all students reported ever using inhalants, the proportion who had ever used decreased from 20% of 12-year-olds to 11% of 17-year-olds. Recent use of inhalants also decreased with age, with 10% of 12-year-olds using inhalants in the past month while only four per cent of 17-year-olds had used as recently. The proportion of older and younger students reporting to have used inhalants in their lifetime and in the past month did not change significantly between 2005 and 2011, or between 2008 and 2011." (Executive Summary)

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011).Substance use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Cat. no. IHW 40.Canberra: AIHW. [website]

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2012: detail analysis. AIHW Cat. no. IHW 94 Canberra: AIHW. (see chapter 2.17 Drug and other substance use including inhalants) [website]

States and Territories
Australia Capital Territory
ACT Health (2009) ACT secondary student drug and health risk behaviours: results of the 2008 ACT secondary student alcohol and drug survey, Health series No. 50, Canberra: ACT Health [pdf -1.1Mb]

"The second most commonly reported drug was inhalants with 17.7% of secondary students reporting use at least once in their lifetime and 3.6% reporting use in the last seven days." (p.15)
"Younger students perceived using LSD regularly and sniffing glue, thinners and petrol regularly as less dangerous than older students did." (p.4)

New South Wales
Centre for Epidemiology and Research (2009) New South Wales school students health behaviours survey: 2008 report, Sydney: NSW Department of Health.  [website]

"In 2008, among students aged 12-17 years, 19.9 per cent had ever used inhalants. Students aged 12-15 years (21.6 per cent) were significantly more likely than students aged 16-17 years (15.6 per cent) to have ever used inhalants. There was no significant difference between males and females.
The proportion of students who had ever used inhalants decreased significantly between 1996 (27.3 percent) and 2008 (19.9 per cent). The decrease has been significant in students aged 12-15 years (30.7 percent to 21.6 per cent).
However, there has been no significant change in the proportion of students aged 12-17 years who had ever used inhalants between 2005 and 2008. " (p. 141)

Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian (2013) Snapshot 2013: Children and young people in Queensland. [pdf]

Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (2006) 2004 National drug strategy household survey: selected results for Queensland, Prepared for Queensland Health.  [pdf - 172 kB]

Queensland Health (2007) Illicit drug use among Queensland school students aged 12 to 17 years, 2005. Brisbane: Queensland Government [pdf -557 kB]

South Australia
Drug and Alcohol Services. Statistics on illicit drug use in South Australia[website]

Drug and alcohol Services. Illicit drug use among South Australian secondary school students.  [website]

White, V & Smith G (2009)  Victorian secondary school students’ use of licit and illicit substances in 2008: results from the 2008 Australian secondary students' Alcohol and Drug Survey, Melbourne: Victorian Department of Health. [website]

“In 2008 19% of students reported they had deliberately sniffed inhalants at least once in their lifetime, 14% reported use in the past year, and 8% in the past month. Unlike other substances, reported inhalant use decreased with age.” (p.17)

The Victorian Drug Statistics Handbook 2007: Patterns of drug use and related harm in Victoria, Melbourne: Victorian Government Publishing Service.  [pdf - 3.64 MB]

Western Australia

Griffiths P, Kalic R, McGregor C and Gunnell A (2011). National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2007: Western Australian Households, DAO Surveillance Report: Number 05. Perth, Western Australia; Drug and Alcohol Office. [pdf - 1.1 MB]  see page 71 for inhalant statistics.

Haynes, R., Kalic, R., Griffiths, P., McGregor, C. and Gunnell, A. (2010). Australian School Student Alcohol and Drug Survey: Illicit Drug Report 2008 – Western Australian results. Drug and Alcohol Office Surveillance Report: Number 3. Perth: Drug and Alcohol Office [pdf - 1.1 MB]  see page 32 for inhalant statisics.

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Page last updated 14 October 2013

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