Tapping into wastewater for a national picture of drug consumption

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has today 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, the Hon. Michael Keenan MP launched the report alongside ACIC Chief Executive Officer, Mr 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 said.

“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,” Mr Dawson said.

“With serious and organised crime driving supply trends, and resilient user demand, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is committed to working with our partners to better understand the threat, the role of serious and organised crime in the problem and the need to collectively work on effective responses.

“Improving the data sources available for the central analysis of illicit drug trends is a critical step in this process.”

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.

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.

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.

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