The use of drugs – both legal and illegal - is an issue of tremendous concern in Australian society. While alcohol and tobacco continue to cause by far the most harm among the wider population, the use and impact of illicit drugs is substantial.

The National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) is an integral part of the national strategy aimed at minimising the harm associated with legal and illegal drug use in Australia. Our role is to conduct and disseminate high quality research that contributes to effective policy, strategies and practice to prevent and reduce harmful alcohol and other drug use.


The mission of the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) is to conduct and disseminate high quality research that supports evidence informed policy, strategies and practice to prevent and minimise alcohol and other drug-related health, social and economic harms among individuals, families and communities in Australia.


Our work is guided by the following values:

  • Encouragement of academic excellence and productivity
  • Academic independence
  • Service to the community
  • Social equity and justice, including a commitment to Aboriginal Australians
  • Relevance to efforts to combat major health and social problems
  • The need for rigour and evidence in policy and practice development and implementation
  • Openness to other views from internal and external peer review
  • Ethical conduct
  • Support for and development of early career researchers
  • Fairness and equity for staff of all levels


Since its inception in 1986, NDRI has conducted novel, high quality, strategic research that aims to inform Australia's response to alcohol and other drug problems at local, state and national levels.

Our research follows the philosophy of harm minimisation that has underpinned Australia's National Drug Strategy since 1985. Harm minimisation recognises that drug use, both legal and illegal, is a fact of modern society, and while use may be prevented or reduced, there will always be a need to minimise the harmful consequences of drug use to individuals, families and communities.

Because harm minimisation focuses on the harms caused by drug use, it provides a framework in which a range of strategies can be legitimately used to achieve the overall goal. These strategies can be broadly classified into three areas:

  • Demand reduction – encouraging people not to use, to delay use, or to use less of a drug
  • Supply reduction – controlling the availability of a drug
  • Harm reduction – helping those who continue to use drugs to do so in ways that are less harmful

All three of these areas are being addressed in our research.


NDRI’s research priority areas align with the National Drug Strategy 2017–2026 and are responsive to current and emerging Australian Government priorities regarding alcohol and other drugs.

Our current focus is on conducting research and building capacity in the following six areas:

  • Alcohol and other drug policy and strategies;
  • Needs of Aboriginal Australians;
  • Innovation in prevention and early intervention;
  • Social contexts of alcohol and other drug use;
  • Reducing harm among people who use alcohol and other drugs;
  • Innovation in the management of alcohol and other drug problems.

Our Strategic Plan is currently being updated and will be available for download when complete.

NDRI focuses on research and other outputs that have policy and practice relevance and impact. To achieve this, we work in partnership and collaboration with Australian, state and local governments; with health, social and law enforcement services; and with communities. To ensure broad and enduring impact, capacity building is central to our work.

We work closely with researchers from a number of universities and research centres around Australia, including our three sister organisations: the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney; the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) at Flinders University in Adelaide; and the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research (CYSAR) at the University of Queensland.

We have formal Collaborating Centre links with several Australian centres that conduct alcohol and other drug research: the Australian Institute of Criminology (Canberra), the Drug and Alcohol Services Council of South Australia, Turning Point (Melbourne), and the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

We are also collaborating partners in the Australian Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre and the Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use.

Our researchers work in collaboration with others to provide alcohol and other drug resources such as Lives of Substance, Cracks in the Ice, Positive Choices and Breaking the Ice.

We also work collaboratively with a number of organisations internationally, such as the Centre for Addiction Research of BC in Canada, Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University and Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil.

WHO Collaborating Centre

NDRI has been a designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse since 1994, and works with WHO to conduct research, training and consultation in the Asia-Pacific region.