Illicit drugs: a snapshot

A new report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has revealed trends in the supply and demand of illicit drugs

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan launched the report alongside ACIC CEO Chris Dawson.

“The Illicit Drug Data Report captures a holistic picture of the supply and demand of illicit drugs across the nation,” Mr Dawson said.

“The illicit drug market remains the principal source of profit for organised crime and continues to be a key focus for law enforcement in Australia, with the number of illicit drug seizures and arrests once again, the highest on record.”

This reporting period the number of national illicit drug seizures increased 9%, reaching a record 115,421 seizures in 2015–16.

The weight of illicit drugs seized nationally decreased 10.8% this reporting period, with the 21 tonnes seized in 2015–16 the fourth highest weight on record.

The number of national illicit drug arrests increased 15.4% this reporting period to a record 154,538 arrests in 2015–16.

The report showed that while the overall number of clandestine laboratories continues to decline, Queensland 40.7% of labs detected across the nation.

“There were 575 clan lab detections in Australia this reporting period, of which 234 were located in Queensland,” Mr Dawson said.

“Nationally, around two-thirds of the clan labs detected in 2015–16 were in residential locations, posing significant risks to surrounding communities as they are used to covertly manufacture illicit drugs or their precursors, with many of the chemicals used both hazardous and corrosive in nature.”

While the majority of detected laboratories continue to be addict-based, the proportion of industrial scale laboratories increased in 2015–16, the report found.

Amphetamine-type stimulants (excluding MDMA) make up the greater proportion of these labs.

As well as looking at illicit drugs and their manufacture, the report also discusses the importation and misuse of prescription pharmaceuticals.

“The importation of prescription pharmaceuticals when imported by individuals is primarily done for personal use and without serious criminal intent,” it says.

“Pharmaceuticals continue to be purchased over the internet for a variety of reasons, including the anonymity afforded to purchasers, the ability to purchase without a prescription and the lower cost.

During the reporting period, detections of benzodiazepines at the Australian border decreased by 13.5%, from 2,772 in 2014-5 to 2,399 in 2015-6.

Detections of opioids also decreased, by 27.3, from 128 in 2014-5 to 93 in 2015-6. Oxycodone and codeine were the most common opioids detected, accounting for 61.3% of opioid detections at the border.

The report cites wastewater analysis conducted in the second half of 2016 which showed oxycodone consumption in rural areas was well above capital city levels, with regional sites in Victoria and Queensland of particular concern.

Law enforcement price data for pharmaceuticals obtained for non-medical use is limited, but nationally, the price for a single 100 milligram tablet of MS Contin in 2015–16 ranged between $30 and $150.

The report follows the publication of AIHW data this week which showed that about 134,000 Australians received drug treatment in 2015–16, equating to around one in 180 people.

Between 2011-2 and 2015-6, the proportion due to amphetamines more than doubled—from 11% to 23%—while the proportion due to cannabis remained relatively unchanged, from 22% to 23%.

“The actual number of treatment episodes for amphetamines rose from around 16,900 in 2011–12 to 46,400 in 2015–16—a 175% increase,” said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

The number of treatment episodes for cannabis also rose, up by 40%. Meanwhile, heroin and alcohol treatment episodes fell—by 15% and 6%, respectively.

“Nationally, alcohol remained the most common drug people sought treatment for, although a growing proportion of clients sought help due to amphetamine use.”


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