A snapshot of drug use

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Alcohol and nicotine remain the most-consumed licit drugs in Australia, while methylamphetamine is still the most-used illicit drug, new data show

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has released the sixth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, which as it concludes its second year of reporting, is increasingly able to provide longer-term insights into drug consumption.

When comparing data from August 2016 to August 2018, the population-weighted average consumption of fentanyl, nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine and cocaine has risen in both capital city and regional sites.

Over the same period, consumption of MDMA and oxycodone in both capital city and regional sites has decreased.

The data show that between August 2017 and August 2018, it is estimated that more than 9.6 tonnes of methylamphetamine was consumed in Australia each year, as well as more than 4 tonnes of cocaine, 1.1 tonnes of MDMA, and more than 700 kilograms of heroin.

The street price of this quantity of these four drugs is valued at around $9.3 billion.

Pharmaceutical drugs with abuse and diversion potential oxycodone and fentanyl are among the substances tracked, and elevated consumption was noted at several sites, noticeably across Tasmania.

“Regional areas had average oxycodone use well above capital city sites in many states,” the report says.

“Fentanyl consumption has been increasing in several regions, particularly Victoria and New South Wales.”

Cannabis was included in the data for the first time in this sixth report.

Its inclusion in the program illustrates the variation in consumption that exists both within and between the states and territories, providing further insight into one of the largest illicit drug markets in Australia, says Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Michael Phelan.

“Cannabis is one of the most used illicit drugs, both domestically and internationally, and its inclusion in the program provides valuable insights,” Mr Phelan said.

“In August 2018, there was apparent variation in consumption between the states and territories, with regional average cannabis consumption more than double capital city average consumption.”

He said analysis of wastewater data offers opportunities to address emerging problems, identify previously unknown drug threats and consumption patterns as well as the effectiveness of demand and harm reduction initiatives.

The program also continues to evolve as wastewater data are increasingly being integrated with data from other government, private sector and academic sources to develop a more granular picture of drug markets and also activity in other areas of the Australian community.

The full report can be accessed here.

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