Worrying new trend for Aussie women

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Australia has reported a rise in binge drinking and drug use. Picture: Supplied

A new survey has found that young Australian women are using illicit drugs at the same rate as men for the first time, with an uptick in binge drinking leading experts to call for an “urgent” investment into harm prevention.

More than one in three young women have consumed an illicit drug over the past year, up from 27 per cent in 2019, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Cannabis was by far the most popular drug of choice, with the number of women who have recently used cannabis and identified as being at “high risk” of harm more than doubling since 2019.

Data shows about five million people overall have reported to have consumed the drug in the past 12 months, with one million having recently used cocaine

“These are worrying increases that warrant further research so that we can better understand what is influencing these trends and how we can reduce or prevent the risk of harm,” Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor said.

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The gap is narrowing between the number of young men and women drinking at risky levels.

The survey of more than 21,000 Australians also found that people are consuming more than 10 standard drinks per week or more than four standard drinks in a single day at least once a month.

It showed two out of five young women aged 18 to 24 are consuming levels of alcohol outside of the recommended health guidelines, with 45 per cent of young men drinking a “risky” amount on a weekly basis.

Concerningly, the survey revealed that the number women who have experienced harm by an individual under the influence of alcohol has increased from 2.2 million in 2019 to 2.4 million in 2022/23.

According to Dr Lalor, there is strong growing national support for more health-based approaches to drug use and harm prevention, with more than 50 per cent of Australians backing medically supervised injecting facilities and designated drug-checking sites.

A high number of Australians also supported referrals to a treatment or education program for those found with illicit drugs for personal use instead of a criminal response.

“This data concerningly shows that many Australians are regularly exceeding the national alcohol guidelines, which increases their risk of harms such as injuries, illnesses and diseases like cancer,” Dr Lalor said.

“We need greater investment in education around risky drinking, including clear information about the harm it can cause.”