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5 April 2018

Meth use on the rise in the Northern Territory

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has today released the fourth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing that average methylamphetamine consumption has increased in the Northern Territory capital city site. The Territory also has the highest average capital city consumption of alcohol, nicotine and MDMA.

Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, the Hon Angus Taylor MP launched the report today, alongside Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Mr Michael Phelan APM, in Mandurah, Western Australia.

“It is highly concerning to see methylamphetamine consumption on the rise,” Mr Phelan said.

“This destructive drug is having a terrible impact not only on users, but on families, first responders, health practitioners and the community more broadly.

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program provides a clear picture of changing trends in the consumption of methylamphetamine and 11 other drugs across Australia. Armed with this information, government, health and law enforcement agencies can better target policy and operational responses and reduce the impact of drugs in our society,” Mr Phelan said.

Average cocaine consumption also increased in the capital city site, while average heroin consumption decreased between August and December 2017.

Mr Phelan said the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program is world leading based on the number of substances tested, the frequency of testing, its breadth, depth and geographic scope and the longitudinal data it is generating.

The fourth report also provides conservative estimates of the weight of methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin consumed nationally in a year.

“We estimate that over 8.3 tonnes of methylamphetamine is consumed in Australia each year, as well as over 3 tonnes of cocaine, 1.2 tonnes of MDMA and 700 kilograms of heroin,” Mr Phelan said.

“Such estimates can then be compared with other data, such as the weight of drugs seized by law enforcement, to further enrich our collective understanding of these drug markets and identify the most effective supply, demand and harm reduction measures.”

The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program found that of the substances tested in December 2017 in the Northern Territory:

  • Nicotine and alcohol remain the highest consumed substances.
  • The Northern Territory and Tasmania had the highest average capital city consumption of nicotine in the country.
  • The Northern Territory had the highest average capital city consumption of alcohol in the country.
  • Average methylamphetamine consumption increased in the capital city site.
  • Average cocaine consumption increased in the capital city site.
  • Average MDMA consumption increased in the capital city site.
  • The Northern Territory had the highest average capital city consumption of MDMA in the country.
  • Average heroin consumption decreased in the capital city site.

For this report, samples were collected during October and December 2017, covering 12 substances. Forty-five wastewater sites were monitored nationally in December 2017, covering 54.3 per cent of Australia’s population—around 12.7 million people.

Population estimates have been refined in this report, which has increased the precision and accuracy of consumption estimates. Such enhancements enable the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and its partners to better shape more effective, targeted response to drug demand and supply—particularly in high-use areas.

“We will continue to engage with academia, industry and community organisations to expand use of the data, focus responses in high risk areas, and monitor the effectiveness of demand, supply and harm reduction initiatives,” Mr Phelan said.

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 research report findings.

The full report is available on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission website.

Last updated
5 April 2018