Drug users spent $11.3 billion on substance abuse last year, based on drug use trends in Australia in 2020.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) released the latest results of its National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program. The 9th NWDMP report revealed a growing problem regarding illicit drug use in the country.
Drug Use in Australia
To understand the drug use trends, the ACIC commissioned an analysis of wastewater from 58 different sites. The NWDMP covered about 13.3 million people or roughly 57% of the total population in Australia.
Researchers measured the amount of drugs that typically end up in sewages. They identified 13 specific substances: methylamphetamine, amphetamine, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), MDA, heroin, cannabis, mephedrone, methylone, oxycodone, fentanyl, nicotine, and alcohol.
Of all the substances that were measured, methylamphetamine (methamphetamine) came out as the most abused illegal drug. The ACIC estimates that more than 11 tonnes of the substance is consumed by Aussies every year.
Methylamphetamine is the proper name given to the potent central nervous system stimulant known as ‘ICE’.
Aside from ICE, drug users also consumed an average of 4.6 tonnes of cocaine, 2.2 tonnes of MDMA (ecstasy), and over 900 kilograms of heroin annually.
Overall, Aussies spent as much as $11.3 billion to support their illegal drug use in 2019. The amount jumped by $2 billion compared to the $9.3 billion spent the year prior.
In capital cities, drug users consumed higher amounts of cocaine and heroin per capita than those living in regional sites.
Meanwhile, regional areas had a higher consumption of nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis compared to capital cities.
Michael Phelan, chief executive officer of the ACIC, called the report’s findings “tragic”. However, he believes that the NWDMP could provide a way to help solve the growing drug problem in Australia.
“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,” Phelan said.
Long-Term Drug Use Trends
The latest National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report examined data gathered from August 2016 to August 2019. It identified long-term trends in drug consumption, as well as provided comparisons for each class of illegal drug.
Regional areas showed a higher consumption of most drugs per capita compared to other sites. However, it did not include cocaine and heroin.
The population-weighted average consumption of nicotine, ICE, and cocaine increased from 2016 to 2019. Meanwhile, the consumption of other drugs such as alcohol, oxycodone and fentanyl decreased.
There was also a discrepancy regarding population-weighted average consumption of MDMA across areas. While the consumption of ecstasy in regional areas increased, it noticeably decreased in capital cities.
Most Popular Illicit Drugs
Aussies consumed increasing amounts of ICE, cocaine, MDMA and heroin each year from 2016 to 2019. Of these, ICE topped the list as the most consumed illicit drug. It accounted for 60% of the combined estimated consumption of all four drugs.
Tasmania (92.5%) had the highest increase in ICE consumption rates across all states and territories, while South Australia (-6.2%) and Western Australia (-4.2%) had the lowest.
Meanwhile, cocaine consumption rates increased across all states and territories. In Western Australia and Queensland, consumption jumped by 150.6% and 123.6% respectively.
Queensland had the highest increase in MDMA consumption rates, while the Northern Territory had the lowest.
Finally, heroin consumption in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania decreased, while consumption in the Northern Territory remained stable. Meanwhile, rates in all other areas increased over the three years.
You can read the full National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report here.
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