British backpackers are twice as likely to drink five or more times a week when they are in Australia, compared to when they were at home, according to research released this week.

Forty percent reported this level of drinking in Australia, while just over 20 percent reported similar patterns in the UK.

More than half of the sample (55 percent) used at least one illicit drug when backpacking.

The study, which was conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW and the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, involved interviews with 1008 UK nationals aged 18-35 years, holidaying in Sydney or Cairns during 2005.

"The image of the hard-drinking, hard-playing UK backpacker appears to be reinforced by the results of this research," said one of the authors of the report, Paul Dillon from NDARC.

"The backpacker industry is growing and these results clearly show that we need to examine how we deal with the range of possible problems linked to the alcohol and other drug use by this group of holidaymakers," he said.

For more on this story, go to the Faculty of Medicine website