11 March 2020

Heroin use falls in the ACT, but wastewater shows opioids on the rise

| Michael Weaver
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The ninth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program reveals startling figures relating to the ACT’s drug usage. Photo: File.

Canberran’s use of opioid drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone and codeine is increasing dramatically according to a new report from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

The report samples the ACT’s wastewater to provide an overview of the consumption of 13 substances.

The ninth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, undertaken in August 2019, showed Canberrans were the third-highest users of cocaine, behind Melbourne and Sydney.

Only heroin use in the ACT had decreased, with traces of heroin identified being lower by almost 30 per cent than the first sample taken three years ago.

Samples from 58 wastewater treatment plants across Australia were collected, covering about 57 per cent of Australia’s population (equivalent to about 13.3 million people).

The survey provides a snapshot of the scale of drug use over a week in August 2019, which was then compared with historical data included in previous reports. After normalising the amount of drug measured in wastewater for population size and average dose consumed, alcohol and nicotine were found to be the most commonly consumed drugs in all states and territories.

Methylamphetamine, also known as ‘ice’, remained the most consumed illicit drug.

Samples of almost all drugs collected had increased significantly in the three years since the first report, with the use of methylamphetamine rising by 49 per cent.

The use of cocaine was up by 23 per cent and MDMA by 28 per cent.

However, the amount of heroin used by Canberrans has decreased in the past three years by almost 30 per cent.

Since the last report in April 2019, there have also been minor decreases in the samples of methylamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA.

In the ACT, an estimated 119.4 kg of methylamphetamine was consumed annually. There was an estimated 83.4kg of cocaine consumed, 36.5 kg of MDMA and 10.3 kg of heroin.

In Australia, it is believed 11.5 tonnes of methylamphetamine was consumed last year, along with 4.6 tonnes of cocaine, 2.2 tonnes of MDMA and more than 900 kilograms of heroin.

ACIC CEO Michael Phelan said Australians spent an estimated $11.3 billion on methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin from August 2018 to August 2019. Of this, $8.63 billion was spent on methylamphetamine.

“This is one of the more tragic, harmful and wasteful aspects of illicit drug markets,” Mr Phelan said.

“Australians are spending a significant amount of money on illicit substances each year, generating profits for the sole benefit of organised crime groups.

“This is money that might otherwise be spent on legitimate goods for themselves and their families.”

Regionally, the per capita regional consumption of nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis exceeded that in capital cities. Cannabis consumption also increased in regional areas.

Mr Phelan said this has implications for response options because resources are more thinly spread in regional Australia.

The Northern Territory was found to have some of the highest consumers of nicotine and alcohol, followed by Tasmania.

The full report is available on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission website.

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Hmmmmm…wonder if there is any connection to the increased OMCG activity in Canberra.

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