Stats on Alcohol, Amphetamine and Mental Illness Admissions

Odyssey House media release – 18 December 2012


Alcohol, amphetamines and mental illness top admissions to rehab


Mental illness now affects more than half of all clients seeking treatment for alcohol and other drug dependence according to a report released today by one of Australia’s largest rehabilitation services.


The 2012 Odyssey House Annual Report also reveals alcohol remains the primary drug of concern for almost one in three people entering its residential rehabilitation program, with similar admission rates for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) such as ice and speed.


Opiates such as heroin, methadone, morphine and buprenorphine were the primary drug of concern for one in four clients during the 2011-2012 financial year.


Odyssey House CEO James Pitts said the link between increased mental illness and drug dependence, particularly alcohol and synthetic stimulants, highlights a significant public health issue that cannot be ignored.


“Drug dependence combined with mental illness has increased by 33 per cent over the past year, with 56 per cent of Odyssey House clients now diagnosed with conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.


“This compares with 42 per cent in 2011, but what’s particularly alarming is that it’s a five-fold increase since 1999, when 10 per cent of our clients had a diagnosed mental illness.”


Mr Pitts said a person’s mental illnesses may be pre-existing, exacerbated by drug misuse, a consequence of alcohol or other drug use, or symptomatic of withdrawal.


“What’s ironic is that people often turn to alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to feel better, have a good time or ‘self-medicate’ their personal issues, yet many end up in the grip of dependence and suffering serious mental health problems, sometimes long-term,” he said.


“For example, the psychiatric ‘bible’ DSM-IV-TR describes ten amphetamine-related disorders due to ATS intoxication or long-term use.


“In addition, ceasing ATS use may cause rebound depression, paranoid or suspicious thoughts, agitation, irritability and sleep disorders for weeks or months, which poses significant treatment challenges.


“Treating people suffering drug dependence and mental illness requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach to recovery on both fronts.”


Odyssey House clients access psychiatric services and prescribed medication and also participate in a specific dual diagnosis therapy group, which helps them understand and manage their condition and avoid relapse to mental illness and substance misuse.


However, there are no medications proven to effectively treat ATS dependence, and opiate and alcohol treatment methodologies may not be effective for ATS users.


Accordingly, Odyssey House participated in a rigorous longitudinal trial[1] of an intensive therapy-based treatment developed for people suffering ATS dependence, which also takes into account their likely psychological problems and issues such as disordered thoughts, trouble focusing and issues with motivation and engagement in therapy. Early results are promising and findings are expected to be published in 2013.


Snapshot of key statistics, 2012 Odyssey House Annual Report


Residential Rehabilitation Program


  • Drug dependence combined with mental illness increased by 33 per cent over the past year, with 56 per cent of Odyssey House clients diagnosed with a mental illness


  • During the 2011-12 financial year, alcohol was the primary drug of concern for 29 per cent of clients admitted to the Odyssey House Residential Program (30% in 2011); 70 per cent of clients list alcohol as one of their drugs of concern.


  • Thirty per cent of clients reported amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) as their main drug of concern, an increase of 20 per cent on 2011, when 25 per cent cited ATS.


  • Admissions for opiates, predominantly heroin, accounted for 24 per cent of admissions, down from 27 per cent in 2011.


  • Fifteen per cent of admissions were for cannabis, a rate unchanged since 2011 and with only minor variations over the past ten years.


  • During the year, 643 people were admitted to the Odyssey House Residential Program, including the Parents’ and Children’s Program, where families live together while the parents undertake rehabilitation and learn parenting skills. Nineteen children aged from 0 to 11 years benefited from their parents’ participation in the program during the year.


  • While young people continue to represent a significant proportion of admissions, there is a continuing upward trend in the age of the people Odyssey House serves: clients aged 31 years and over comprised two-thirds (62%) of residential admissions in 2012, including 25 per cent who were 41 years and over. Seven in ten clients were male.


Withdrawal Unit


  • The Odyssey House Withdrawal Unit admitted 327 people for short-term medically supervised withdrawal services during the year and almost half of completing clients went on to enter the Residential Program (clients are referred to services most suited to their rehabilitation needs, which may include out-patient counselling or support groups).


  • While amphetamine-type stimulants were also a concern for clients entering the Odyssey House Withdrawal Program (22%), dependence on opiates accounted for 42 per cent of clients seeking medically supervised withdrawal services during the year.


  • Alcohol was the primary drug of concern for 15 per cent of withdrawal clients, while cannabis dependence accounted for 17 per cent of withdrawal admissions.


In 2011-2012, Odyssey House residents accounted for over 33,256 drug-free and crime-free days. This amounted to a cost saving to society of more than $18 million.


Odyssey House has assisted more than 35,000 people to overcome dependence on alcohol and other drugs since 1977. The Odyssey House Admissions Centre can be contacted on 02 9281 5144 (no referral is necessary) or visit