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Better services for alcohol and other drugs

4 November 2022
More effective alcohol and other drug treatment needed.
Over 65% of people entering prison report risky alcohol or other drug use. Dr Michael Doyle's research considers whether more effective alcohol and other drug treatment could lead to improved health and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

Dr Michael O'Doyle's research highlights the much higher rates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are imprisoned when compared with other Australians. Noting that most First Nations families are affected in some way.

Chart of imprisonment rate amongst adults showing higher rates for first nations peoples

National imprisonment rate 2009-21 chart (per 100,000 population).


Taking a sample of both Aboriginal and non-aboriginal men in prison, Doyle investigated where and if they had received health education on alcohol and other drug use harms prior to receiving a session with a trained professional through the criminal justice system.

His research, published in the Health promotion Journal of Australia in May 2022, found no-one had received such education in primary or high school. And only one participant recalled receiving health information through media, and one individual had received treatment through a health service. This occurred serendipitously, by meeting a doctor at an Aboriginal men’s group, and subsequently seeing him. 

Dr Michael Doyle

From qualitative analysis and interview, Doyle and his colleagues determined that the Aboriginal participants had low levels of formal education and had been negatively affected by alcohol and drug use within their families from around age 12-14 years. Most of the participants believed they would not have offended, and been subsequently imprisoned, if they did not have a substance abuse issue. It is likely that without further support post prison, they would likely return to drug use.

Conclusions and recommendations include the need for greater efforts to support families with substance use issues. And the need for better, more targetted health promotion education for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

For more see: Drug and Alcohol Review 2020| International Journal of Prisoner Health 13 June 2021 | Health Promotion Journal of Australia 16 May 2022