Known for its great beaches and vibrant nightlife, the Gold Coast region also boasts one of Australia’s highest rates of drug and alcohol consumption. In order to control this, there have been several studies on exactly what the trends are with illicit substances and binge drinking. There are also a number of government-run initiatives aimed at providing education and treatment in both of these areas.
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) of Queensland has produced a statewide report entitled Intelligence on Queensland’s Illicit Drug Markets. This looked at emergency departments on the Gold Coast and found that 55% of patients had taken drugs at some stage during their lives. 28% had used in the 12 months prior to the study. Out of all regions in Queensland, the Gold Coast had the highest lifetime prevalence of ecstasy and amphetamines at 6.2% and 6.9% respectively.
The CCC also produced a detailed report called Exploring Drug Use Prevalence and Patterns among Emergency Department Patients that found some interesting trends. It focused on the Gold Coast Hospital Emergency Department and found that, in the 12 months prior to the study, 26% had used cannabis, 9.8% had used amphetamines, 8.5% had used ecstasy, 3.3% had used cocaine and 2% had used LCD/acid. About half of these had used multiple drugs with 47% saying they had driven under the influence. These rates were higher than those found in the average Queensland household.
This same CCC study also looked at trends for drinking alcohol. 18.7% didn’t consume alcohol, 27.2% drank monthly, 19.3% drank weekly, 17.2% drank 2 to 4 times per week and 17.2% drank 5 or more times per week. This was split between 50.4% consuming alcohol in a low-risk manner, 21.2% in a hazardous manner and 9.6% in a harmful manner. Also, 33.5% of respondents said they had driven under the influence of alcohol in the 12 months before the study commenced.
These rates spike during the yearly Schoolies celebrations with teenagers at particular risk of heavy alcohol use. According to an ABC News story, 75.2% of those attending the celebrations got drunk, 20.5% passed out and 24.6% injured themselves in an alcohol-related incident. Additionally, 4.4% had injected a drug during Schoolies with most of these sharing a needle with someone else.
As for the general population, the National Alcohol Sales Data Project, 2016 sheds some light on this issue. They say for regional areas such as the Gold Coast, which are known for tourism, the per capita consumption each year is more than 15 litres, a rate which is higher than most other areas in Australia.
To combat all of these issues, both national and state governments have created a number of initiatives. First, there is the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)that provides advice, counselling and referrals for these issues around the clock, seven days a week. Within the Gold Coast Alcohol and Other Drug Services (AODS) provide assessments, interventions, treatment and more. This is run from two locations, one at the Gold Coast University Hospital and the other at Palm Beach. Finally, there is a Needle and Syringe Program run from centres at Beenleigh, Southport and Burleigh Heads.