Results from the 4th National Clients of Treatment Service Agencies census: changes in clients' substance use and other characteristics


National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052. Fax: (02) 9385 0222; e-mail:


Objective: The 2001 Clients of Treatment Service Agencies (COTSA) census, the fourth since 1990, was conducted to enable a comparison of the drug and alcohol-related problems being treated over an 11-year period.

Method The 24-hour census was conducted on Wednesday 2 May 2001 in all Australian States and Territories. All agencies providing treatment for drug and alcohol problems in Australia were asked to provide demographic, treatment and substance use information about all clients treated on census day. The data were analysed with frequencies and basic descriptive statistics.

Results: Of the agencies surveyed, 90.3% responded. The census suggests that, among the treatment population, the mean age of substance users has decreased and the proportion of clients who are women has increased. Treatment for opiate, cannabis and amphetamine problems increased; treatment for alcohol problems decreased. Substance use patterns differed according to sex, age, size of the population centre, and Indigenous status.

Conclusions and implications: Changes among the treatment population reflect changes in demographics and substance use among the broader drug-using community, with the exception of the presentation of alcohol problems for treatment. The reasons for the apparent decline in treatment for alcohol problems are not clear, although a number of factors, such as changes in treatment strategies and facilities and relative increases in other substance use problems, are considered. Any decrease in treatment for a significant health problem such as alcohol use disorder will have considerable public health implications.