Third wastewater report shows continued demand for drugs in Australia

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has today released the third report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing that methylamphetamine continues to be the highest consumed illicit drug of those tested across all regions of Australia.

Pharmaceutical opiods oxycodone and fentanyl—prescription substances with abuse potential through diversion to the illicit market—also had elevated consumption levels at several regional sites across the country, with regional average consumption of both substances higher than capital city consumption.

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

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program provides our government, law enforcement agencies, and the community with a clear evidence base for which drugs are being consumed across Australia,” Mr Phelan said.

“Understanding trends and emerging issues in the illicit drug market, both nationally and at a state and territory level, gives the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and our partners an opportunity to shape the most effective, targeted response to drug demand and supply—particularly in high-use areas.

“Findings from the third report show that of the substances tested, nicotine and alcohol are consistently the highest consumed substances across the country, with methylamphetamine consumption far exceeding that of any other illicit drug.

“Despite decreased usage in some states and territories  over the twelve months, the national demand for methylamphetamine has not reduced and remains resilient and its ongoing widespread use continues to pose significant challenges for the Australian community.’

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program continues to evolve, with consumption levels of both heroin and MDA included in the third report, revealing varied results across the country.”

Detected levels of consumption of MDA underline the utility of wastewater analysis as a means of identifying new drug threats and the need for a national response to domestic manufacture of MDA. Consumption of heroin nationally is considerably less compared to consumption of methylamphetamine and in most jurisdictions there is little consumption of heroin in regional areas, where methylamphetamine poses ongoing challenges.

In this report, 54 wastewater treatment plants across Australia participated in the collection of wastewater samples covering 14 substances. Samples were collected in April, June and August 2017.

The third report contained data from all states and territories, enabling the program to once again provide a national picture of drug use.

“We are grateful to the operators of wastewater facilities across the country participating in this national program—the data you contribute is vital to our understanding of drug trends and emerging issues in Australia.

“The statistics provided in all National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program reports will be used to inform policy and operational decisions and we 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 through it the University of South Australia, to undertake the program and prepare the reports containing its findings. A total of nine public reports will be released over the three year period, with three reports released per annum.

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

For state specific results, visit the Media Centre.