Lowest illicit drug offender numbers recorded in 14 years

Media Release

Australia saw a 19 per cent drop in the number of offenders proceeded against by police for illicit drug offences in 2021-22, the sixth straight annual decrease, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

William Milne, ABS head of crime and justice statistics, said there were 50,920 illicit drug offenders in 2021-22, the lowest number recorded in the 14 years since this report began.

“The number of illicit drug offenders have been falling since a peak in 2015-16. The largest decreases coincided with the last two years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions around Australia.

“This year’s decrease was largely due to a decline in the number of offenders charged with the possession or use of illicit drugs, which fell by 7,079 offenders or 17 per cent,” Mr Milne said.

All states and territories recorded fewer illicit drug offenders from the previous year, with the largest drop in Queensland, down 3,665 offenders (-18 per cent), followed by South Australia down 2,700 offenders (-29 per cent) and New South Wales down 2,616 offenders (-18 per cent).

In contrast, over the last year, the overall number of offenders recorded by police in Australia increased by 3 per cent, to 369,488 offenders in 2021-22.

“Largely contributing to this increase was a rise in COVID-19-related offences, which more than doubled from the previous year (up 39,573 offenders),” Mr Milne said.  

Further details can be found in Recorded Crime - Offenders available as a free download from the ABS website

Media notes

  • Illicit drug offences relate to the possessing, selling, dealing or trafficking, importing or exporting, manufacturing or cultivating of drugs or other substances prohibited under legislation.
  • COVID-19 related offences include failure to comply with directives relating to the COVID-19 pandemic under state or territory Public Health Acts; failure to comply with a directive of a person performing a function under state or territory emergency management laws; and providing false or misleading information to a person performing a function under state or territory emergency management laws.
  • Some fines issued by the NSW Police Force for COVID-19 related offences were later cancelled. Offenders proceeded against for these COVID-19 related offence fines are included in the Recorded Crime – Offenders data, as they were proceeded against by police and cancelled later in the justice process.
  • The Recorded Crime - Offenders time series began in 2008–09.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our media release notification service to get notified of ABS media releases or publications upon their release.
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