Substance abuse and drug trends impacting Western Sydney

A man alone, experiencing a drug and alcohol crisis, sitting on a street staircase.

Substance abuse continues to be a significant issue, disrupting lives and families across Australia, including right here in Western Sydney. Some current trends are alarming. This region, home to a diverse and growing population, faces a range of drug and alcohol-related problems that affect individuals and communities. For the Aboriginal population, these issues are compounded by additional challenges that require customised and culturally safe approaches to support and recovery.

At Marrin Weejali, our vision is for Aboriginal people in Western Sydney to live free from addiction and emotional distress, leading healthy and peaceful lives. Run by our people for our people, we stay informed on the latest trends to combat these issues effectively.

Current national drug trends

According to recent data, illicit drug use remains prevalent in Western Sydney. The Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey highlights several key trends:

  • Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug, with around 2.8 million users nationwide.
  • There are approximately 237,000 regular users of methamphetamines (including ICE).
  • Around 113,000 people regularly use cocaine.
  • 283,000 people are addicted to opioids.

Drug trends in Western Sydney

In Western Sydney, substance abuse patterns are influenced by various social and economic factors. The Western Sydney District Data Profile and local health authorities provide insight into the specific trends impacting the region, especially among the Aboriginal community:

  • Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug among Aboriginal people in Western Sydney, mirroring national trends.
  • Usage of methamphetamines, including ICE, is a significant concern, with a noticeable impact on community health and safety.
  • Alcohol remains a major issue, with 12% of First Nations people in the region consuming 11 or more standard drinks at least once a month.
  • Smoking rates are higher in remote areas, but non-remote areas like Western Sydney have seen a decline in smoking rates among Indigenous Australians, which is a positive trend.

What has been the impact on the Aboriginal community?

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Western Sydney, the impact of substance abuse is profound. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey reveals that over 1 in 4 First Nations people used illicit drugs in the past 12 months, with cannabis being the most commonly used.

Additionally, the burden of disease due to tobacco use remains high, accounting for 11.9% of the health burden among Indigenous Australians.

Alcohol misuse is another critical issue, particularly in non-remote areas. As mentioned above, in 2022-2023, 12% of First Nations people reported consuming 11 or more standard drinks at least once a month. This high level of consumption leads to numerous health issues including an increased risk of chronic diseases and mental health disorders. Social consequences often involve family breakdowns, violence and community disintegration. Additionally, there is a significant economic impact due to reduced productivity and increased healthcare costs.

Marrin Weejali - healing shattered spirits

Knowing and understanding the current drug trends in Western Sydney, especially within our local Aboriginal community, assists us in our mission to heal shattered spirits. While these trends are alarming, there is always hope, and we’re here to offer it. People often walk through our doors for the first time at the lowest point of their lives, but we work hard to ensure that every step after this meeting is a step in the right direction.

Our programs are designed to provide vital support to those struggling with addiction, addressing the unique needs of the Aboriginal community in a culturally safe environment for healing and recovery.

Many of our team members have lived experience with addiction and offer empathetic, compassionate support throughout the process of rebuilding each person’s life. Our programs and services—including counselling, group therapy, advocacy, referrals, and building connections with external service providers—empower individuals to overcome the social and emotional dislocation caused by substance abuse.

Take the first step towards healing and reconciliation

If you or someone you know needs support to overcome addiction, our programs and services provide holistic, culturally safe support for individuals and families on their journey to healing and recovery. They are open to both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people in Western Sydney.

See our Aboriginal drug and alcohol misuse programs and social and emotional support programs.

You are welcome at Marrin Weejali.

Contact us for a confidential discussion.