Waste water analysis reveals drug use

Analysis of wastewater shows ice is Australia’s most-consumed illicit drug… and oxycodone and fentanyl use is also high

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has released the first National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report, revealing that of the substances analysed methylamphetamine is the highest consumed illicit drug across all regions of Australia.

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan MP launched the report alongside ACIC Chief Executive Officer, Chris Dawson, in Perth.

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program uses wastewater analysis to capture comprehensive and reliable data on drug consumption across Australia,” Mr Dawson says.

“These results are integral in shaping a whole of government and whole of community response to the demand of illicit drugs in Australia, and the harms to our community.”

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission received $3.6 million over three years from Proceeds of Crime funding for the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, and has commissioned the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia to undertake the program and prepare the first report containing its findings.

The report found that methylamphetamine consumption in Western Australia and South Australia was higher than the national average.

Compared with methylamphetamine, the report found that usage of other illicit stimulants, particularly cocaine and MDMA, was generally much lower.

Of the European countries with comparable reported data for the four common stimulants considered (MDMA, cocaine, amphetamine and methylamphetamine), Australia has the second highest total estimated consumption overall.

Australia ranks second of the 18 countries for consumption of methylamphetamine.

The report also measured usage levels of oxycodone and fentanyl, noting that wastewater analysis cannot distinguish between licit and illicit use. The report found considerable levels of consumption of both substances across the nation, which is worthy of further investigation because of the potential for diversion to the illicit market.

Victoria and Queensland regional sites showed higher than average oxycodone levels, while NSW, SA and WA regional sites had higher than average fentanyl levels.

The report confirmed assessments that new psychoactive substances occupy a niche market where consumption is far less than traditional drug markets.

Alcohol and tobacco were consistently the highest consumed tested substances in all states and territories.

This document is the first of nine public reports which will share results of a national wastewater drug monitoring program over the next three years. This data will provide statistically valid datasets of methylamphetamine usage and distribution patterns across 51 sites in capital city and regional areas across all states and territories. The program covers approximately 58 per cent of the population, or over 14 million people.

The report is intended to provide concrete data to inform a range of disciplines—including health, education, law enforcement and the not-for-profit sector—in formulating their responses to the complex issues posed by drug markets. As the program evolves, it will be possible to evaluate existing and future response initiatives.

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