Wastewater testing shows serious and organised crime groups continue to fuel illicit drug consumption

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has released the latest findings from its National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, revealing increasing levels of consumption for some substances. The ACIC assesses that this will likely lead to an increase in harm experienced by the community.

Acting ACIC CEO Matt Rippon said that Australians continued to be exploited by serious and organised criminals involved in illicit drug trafficking.

“Wastewater analysis provides crucial information and mission critical intelligence on drug markets and serious and organised criminal activity to support intelligence, law enforcement and government in creating a safer Australia.

“The ACIC’s wastewater program has been characterised by ongoing innovation and this report is no exception. For the first time, a reliable dose figure for cannabis has been determined and this permits cannabis consumption to be readily compared with other major illicit drugs.

“Despite large seizures of some illicit drugs by law enforcement, the average consumption of methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA, MDA, fentanyl and ketamine has increased in both capital city and regional sites. The sole beneficiaries of this increased consumption are serious and organised crime groups which make significant profits from their illegal activities,” Mr Rippon said.

The profit derived from the production and distribution of illicit drugs and the subsequent laundering of those proceeds go on to fund further criminal activity across a multitude of crime themes. With methylamphetamine remaining the most harmful illicit drug in Australia, a multi-dimensional approach that targets supply, demand and harm reduction is critical to reducing drug use in Australia.

Australians are the sixth largest consumers of illicit stimulants out of 28 countries monitored between March and May 2022. Report 19 included comparable 2022 data from the Sewage Core Group Europe (SCORE), which covered 161 cities from 28 countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania.

“Australia had the third highest methylamphetamine consumption per capita compared with
24 other countries. We had relatively low consumption of other drugs compared to the remaining SCORE countries with the exception of cannabis, where we ranked sixth of 16 countries,” confirmed Mr Rippon.

The 19th report presents data on Australia’s drug consumption for 12 substances, covering sampling in December 2022 (capital city and regional sites), and February 2023 (capital city sites). Fifty-seven wastewater sites were monitored nationally, covering a population of 13.9 million Australians.

Read the full report on the ACIC website.

Media enquiries: 
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Note to editors 

In accordance with current wastewater analysis conventions, the terms of the contract, and to protect the integrity of the ACIC’s wastewater program, the exact sampling locations cannot be publicly released by the ACIC. To maintain the confidentiality of the participating site, each site was allocated a unique code to de-identify their results, however trends in particular states and territories can be identified.

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.