Wastewater report shows increased drug consumption in Australia

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has today released the fourth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing that of the illicit drugs tested, consumption of methylamphetamine and cocaine has increased across Australia.

Nicotine and alcohol remain the highest consumed substances, with methylamphetamine remaining the highest consumed illicit drug in the country.

The consumption of MDA and MDMA remains low and variable across sites. In general, heroin consumption was lower than the pharmaceutical opioids—fentanyl and oxycodone—with average regional consumption of fentanyl and oxycodone exceeding that in capital city sites.

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

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program continues to provide government, health and law enforcement agencies, and the community with a clear picture of drug consumption across Australia,” Mr Phelan said.

“Our partners have used wastewater results to target locations for policy initiatives, testing the appropriateness of resource allocation and prioritisation decisions, and as a means of reliably and regularly measuring the demand for certain illicit commodities.

 “Analysis of wastewater data has enabled us to estimate the annual national consumption of methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin.

“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 program is one of the best in the world, 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 report covers 54 per cent of the population, which equates to about 12.7 million people. Population estimates have been refined in this report, which has increased the precision and accuracy of consumption estimates. This enables the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and its partners to inform the most effective, targeted response to drug demand and supply—particularly in high-use areas.

The fourth report contained data from all states and territories, enabling the program to provide a national picture of drug use. In this report, 45 wastewater treatment plants across Australia participated in the collection of wastewater samples, covering 12 substances. Samples were collected in October and December 2017.

“We once again thank the operators of wastewater facilities across the country for participating in this national program,” Mr Phelan said.

“As one of the only countries in the world where wastewater analysis receives full funding from the government, we are grateful to the Australian Government for allowing us to develop and share this picture of drug use in Australia.”

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.