The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has released the latest findings from its National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing methylamphetamine and cocaine consumption has increased to the highest levels recorded since 2020, when there was a spike under COVID.
This data provides a snapshot of what’s actually happening in terms of Australian drug use, with implications both for health policy and law enforcement.
ACIC Acting CEO Matt Rippon said the report underlines the pervasive and ongoing threat posed by serious and organised crime groups in Australia to illicit large profits at the expense of the Australian community.
‘This reporting forms part of a multi-dimensional approach that targets supply, demand and harm reduction critical to reducing drug use in Australia,’ he said.
‘Drug consumption estimates derived from wastewater data, when used in combination with other data such as seizure, arrest, price, purity, health and availability data, provide the most comprehensive, empirically-based insights into Australian drug markets.
‘In turn, these data reveal drug market resilience, but also points of vulnerability that present opportunities to inform harm reduction strategies that improve the safety of the Australian community,’ said Mr Rippon.
Alcohol up, heroin down
Report 20 shows an increase in the average consumption of alcohol, methylamphetamine,
3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), oxycodone and ketamine in capital city and regional sites and decreases in the average consumption of heroin, 3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA) and fentanyl.
While cocaine receives a lot of attention, methylamphetamine is the drug which causes the most harm to the community in terms of related mental and physical health issues, property crime, offences involving violence and road trauma.
The ACIC remains committed to providing mission critical intelligence to domestic and international partners to disrupt and dismantle serious organised criminal networks who continue to supply illicit drugs to Australian markets.
Mr Rippon explained that the wastewater work extends far beyond this report, exploring new technology developed by university partners to take sampling to an increasing variety of sites beyond wastewater treatment plants and to more remote areas of the country.
‘With these advances applied to law enforcement, health and broader community harm reduction purposes, our work will generate greater understanding of emerging drug market issues and responses,’ said Mr Rippon.
Report 20 presents data on Australia’s drug consumption of 12 substances, covering sampling from April and June 2023.
Fifty-five wastewater sites were monitored nationally in April (20 capital city and 35 regional), covering a population of 14 million Australians, equating to approximately 55 per cent of our country’s population.
You can read the full report on the ACIC website here.
ACIC says that in accordance with current wastewater analysis conventions, the terms of the contract, and to protect the integrity of the ACIC’s wastewater program, the exact sampling locations cannot be publicly released.
To maintain the confidentiality of the participating site, each site was allocated a unique code to de-identify their results, however trends in particular states and territories can be identified.
Help for drug issues
For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. You can also access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online here.
For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to the Turning Point website.