Identifying alcohol and drug issues

This section supports groups to identify the drug and alcohol issues in their community. It provides guidance on how to gather information and develop an accurate picture of alcohol and drug-related issues in the community.

Developing an accurate picture of local need

There are many alcohol and drug-related issues that your group may feel that it should address. It is important to accurately identify need so that your project/s are focused on the most important issue. If we don't ask the right questions and gather the appropriate information at the start, valuable time, effort and resources may be spent tackling a less important issue while a more important or urgent issue is overlooked.

To start with, it can be a great opportunity to have a brainstorming session, with all the ideas put up onto a whiteboard. You can then consider whether you need more information, such as statistics about alcohol and other drug use and harms in your area.

It is important to know if there is a problem.

  • Have you asked your community through community consultation what they think the issues are?
  • Do you have enough facts, figures and other current information to make an informed decision on the issue?
  • How can you find out more about the issue?
  • Do you need to do any research or gather evidence?
  • What are the causes of the problem?
  • Who is the target group most affected by the issue?

Gathering information from a range of sources will help you to develop an accurate picture of what is happening in your community. As you collect information you may find that some issues are not as problematic or widespread as you initially thought, you may identify other issues affecting your community that you weren’t aware of, or your initial understanding of the alcohol and drug-related issues in the community may be confirmed.

The process of gathering information and local data will help you to gain an accurate picture of local need. The drug and alcohol issues that you identify will form the basis of your Community Action Plan.

Gathering the right information

There is a lot of information available on alcohol and drug-related issues. Sometimes high profile public incidents, controversy, and the political landscape can skew perceptions around the alcohol and drug issues in communities. It is important to gather information and local data that is of a good quality and relevant to your community.

Consider the following questions:

Is it clear where the information has come from?

  • Is it a reputable and authoritative source? For example, government reports, well known and credible organisations, academic books and publications.
  • Is the information factual and accurate?
  • Is the information current?
  • Is it publicly available?
  • Does it contain data specific to your local area?
  • Is information available from a variety of sources?
  • Are the different sources of information broadly consistent with other each?

Statistics and research will provide part of the picture around what’s happening in your community. It’s also important to consult with your partners and community to find out what they understand to be the issues. They may have their own data and insights that could help you identify the alcohol and other drug areas of focus for your project.

Gathering the right information

Sources of information

We live in an ‘information age’ and at times you may find that the amount of information on alcohol and drug-related issues available can be overwhelming, and at times difficult to understand. The following sources of information are reliable and will provide you with a good starting point for gathering information.

Remember that your partners and community members are key sources of information.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has a range of resources to provide you with access to the best available research evidence relating to the prevention of alcohol and other drug harms.

  • Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s Information Line: 1300 85 85 84
  • Alcohol and Drug Foundation Library: a comprehensive library providing access to journal articles and research.
  • Drug facts: factual and up to date information on alcohol and other drugs.

Population health

  • Local government websites include statistics such as age, gender, disability, employment, household, country of birth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) status and sexual orientation.
  • The latest Census population data can provide further supplementary statistical information
  • Community survey data from local governments based in your catchment (they may have asked the community about issues related to alcohol)


  • Council(s) - ask for the Planning, Recreation or Youth Officer
  • Primary care partnerships
  • TAFEs
  • Universities

Identifying a priority issue

As you review your information, it is important to identify the most important issue in your local community.

How serious is the problem? What are the social, health and economic impacts?

Is the issue common, or ‘prevalent’ in the community?

  • Who is affected by it?
  • How many people are affected?
  • How long has it been an issue?
  • What will the community agree to work on together? Will we have community support to address this issue?
  • Is anyone else working on it?
  • Is our group the most appropriate group to do something?

There are specific interventions and approaches that are best suited to certain age groups. There are also interventions that communities can tailor to meet the specific identified needs of priority populations, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Priority target groups

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation have identified a number of priority groups to target. These population groups experience a higher risk of alcohol and drug-related issues and are a priority target audience for projects or activities that prevent alcohol and drug related harms.The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s priority target groups:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • Cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse and Intersex (LGBTI) communities
  • Young people
  • Older people
  • Regional, rural and remote communities.

Please get in touch to find out more about the program
Please get in touch to find out more about the program