Ninth wastewater report reveals Australians spend over $11.3 billion a year on drugs

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) today released the ninth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) providing longer-term insights into drug consumption as the program concludes its third year.

It is estimated that 11.5 tonnes of methylamphetamine was consumed annually in Australia during the third year of the program, as well as 4.6 tonnes of cocaine, 2.2 tonnes of MDMA, and more than 900 kilograms of heroin.

Australians spent an estimated $11.3 billion on methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin from August 2018–August 2019. Of this, $8.63 billion was spent on methylamphetamine.

ACIC CEO Mr Michael Phelan APM said this is one of the more tragic, harmful and wasteful aspects of illicit drug markets.

“Australians are spending a significant amount of money on illicit substances each year, generating profits for the sole benefit of organised crime groups. This is money that might otherwise have been spent on legitimate goods for themselves and their families,” Mr Phelan said.

“Illicit drugs have a devastating impact on everyday Australians. Organised criminals involved in the illicit drug trade prey on our communities to make a profit. They don’t care about the devastation caused through health and social costs, or the drug-related crime.

“By measuring the level of consumption of illicit drugs and legal drugs with abuse potential, the NWDMP can identify new sources of threat and be used as a key indicator of harm posed by these substances,” he said.

The August 2019 collection covers around 57 per cent of Australia’s population—about 13.3 million Australians. Of the drugs measured by the program with available dose data, alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed drugs in Australia, with methylamphetamine the most consumed illicit drug.

The report found that per capita consumption of cocaine and heroin in capital cities exceeded regional consumption. However, the per capita regional consumption of nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis exceeded that in capital cities. This has implications for response options because resources are more thinly spread in regional Australia.

The report found that between April 2019 and August 2019, the population-weighted average consumption of all tested substances decreased, with the exception of heroin and oxycodone. Cannabis consumption also increased in regional areas.

The ACIC would like to acknowledge the valuable support and specialist expertise of The University of Queensland and the University of South Australia, which provide the NWDMP with leading-edge, coordinated national research on illicit and licit drugs and the wastewater treatment plant operators which provide invaluable contributions to the program.

The ACIC received additional funding for the NWDMP until June 2023, and will continue to develop the programs potential while delivering an additional twelve public reports.

The ninth report is available from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission website:

Note to editors

In accordance with current wastewater analysis conventions, the terms of the contract, and to protect the integrity of the program, the exact site locations are not able to be publicly released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. To maintain the confidentiality of participating sites, each site is allocated a unique code to de-identify their results, however trends in particular states and territories are still able to be identified.