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14 December 2017

New South Wales wastewater drug monitoring findings

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has today released the third report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing that cocaine consumption in Australia is mostly centred in New South Wales, across several capital city and regional sites.

New South Wales also reported some of the highest MDMA consumption levels nationally.

Across the twelve sites monitored in the state in August 2017—five capital city sites and seven regional sites—findings show capital city and regional sites in New South Wales had the highest cocaine consumption levels nationally, with the state also reporting the highest regional MDMA consumption levels nationally.

Minister for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan MP launched the report today, alongside Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Mr Michael Phelan APM, in Perth.

“Methylamphetamine was the highest consumed illicit drug of those tested across all regions of Australia, while alcohol and nicotine were consistently the highest consumed substances tested in all states and territories,” Mr Phelan said.

“We already know that serious and organised crime groups are thriving on the profits generated through the illicit drug trade, with no regard for everyday Australians battling addiction.

“Illicit drug use is also costing Australia billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and healthcare and crime costs.

“Our datasets show that the demand for methylamphetamine, and illicit substances more broadly, is strong and pervasive across Australia.

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report findings present a picture of substance use across the country and reinforce the message that Australia needs a multi-faceted approach to combating the illicit drug trade—it cannot be addressed by law enforcement alone.”

The third report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program found that of the substances tested:

  • Nicotine and alcohol remain the highest consumed substances across all states and territories.
  • Average methylamphetamine consumption decreased in capital city sites and increased in regional sites in New South Wales in August 2017.
  • Cocaine consumption in Australia is mostly centred in New South Wales, across several capital city and regional sites.
  • Average cocaine consumption in both capital city and regional sites in New South Wales decreased in August 2017.
  • Average MDMA consumption in both capital city and regional sites in New South Wales decreased in August 2017.
  • New South Wales reported the highest regional average consumption of MDMA nationally in August 2017.
  • Average MDA consumption in New South Wales regional sites was over three times that reported in capital city sites in August 2017.
  • Average consumption of oxycodone in New South Wales decreased in both capital city and regional sites in August 2017.
  • Average fentanyl consumption in New South Wales increased in both capital city and regional sites in August 2017.
  • Average heroin consumption in New South Wales regional sites exceeded capital city sites in August 2017.

For this report, samples were collected during April, June and August 2017. Fifty-four wastewater sites were monitored nationally in August 2017, covering approximately 61 per cent of Australia’s population—around 14.2 million people.

The third report reflects the evolution of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program. With the recent inclusion of heroin, the number of substances monitored as part of the program has increased to 14, providing a better insight into the illicit drug market in Australia. Additionally, a refinement made to the way in which 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) is analysed has resulted in MDA data now reflecting use of this drug, rather than its presence in wastewater solely as a metabolite of MDMA use.

“We are committed to providing a strong evidence base to inform policy and operational decisions and will continue working with our partners to connect, discover, understand and respond to the threat and harm caused by illicit drug activity,” 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 reports containing its findings.

The report is available from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission website.

Last updated
19 January 2018