Twelfth wastewater report reveals Australians waste more than $8.9 billion a year on drugs

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) today released the twelfth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP), providing longer-term insights into drug consumption as the Program concludes its fourth year. It also provides further insights into the effect of COVID-19 on drug consumption in Australia.

It is estimated that 11.1 tonnes of methylamphetamine was consumed in Australia during the fourth year of the Program, as well as 5.6 tonnes of cocaine, 2.6 tonnes of MDMA, and 1 tonne of heroin.

Australians spent an estimated $8.9 billion on methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin in Year 4 of the Program. Seventy-eight per cent of this ($6.96 billion) was spent on methylamphetamine.

ACIC CEO Mr Michael Phelan APM said this is one of the more tragic, harmful and wasteful aspects of illicit drug markets.

“Illicit drugs are debilitating, they are destroying lives and the fabric of many communities in Australia.

“Organised crime groups make money through whatever illegal means they can and profit from the importation, manufacture, trafficking and sale of drugs that cause harm to the community.

“Those involved in the illicit drug trade don’t care about the devastation caused through health and social costs, or drug-related crime,” Mr Phelan said.

“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 the harm posed by these substances,” he said.

The August 2020 collection covers around 56 per cent of Australia’s population-about 13.2 million Australians. Of the drugs measured by the Program with available dose data, alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed drugs in Australia, with methylamphetamine the most consumed illicit drug.

The report found that per capita consumption of cocaine and heroin in capital cities exceeded regional consumption. However, the per capita regional consumption of all the other drugs measured by the Program exceeded that in capital cities. This has implications for response options because resources are more thinly spread in regional Australia.

The report found that between April 2020 and August 2020 the population-weighted average consumption of methylamphetamine and fentanyl in capital cities decreased, while consumption of all other drugs increased. During this period the regional consumption of methylamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl decreased, while alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, oxycodone and cannabis increased and MDMA consumption remained relatively stable.

The ACIC continues to provide advice to Government, law enforcement and policy partners on drug trends during the COVID-19 pandemic and the period of related restrictions. Some of this advice has been derived from more regular and focused wastewater sampling than is routinely undertaken as part of the Program.

“In a year where COVID-19 has heavily impacted Australia as a whole, it has also had a marked impact on the illicit drug market.

“Drug markets are resilient. In the year to August 2020, the annual estimated consumption of cocaine, MDMA and heroin was at the highest level recorded by the Program and the consumption of methylamphetamine at the second highest recorded level.

“That said, illicit drug consumption varied, with both record highs and record lows in regional and capital cities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Phelan said.

The report is available from the ACIC website: www.acic.gov.au

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