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ACIC drug wastewater report show coke, meth use rising

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Australians are hoovering up cocaine and methylamphetamine at alarming levels, a new report has found, with consumption of the illicit drug classes now at their highest levels since 2020.

An analysis of wastewater run by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission shows countrywide, Australians consumed about 40 doses of meth per 1000 people across April and June this year, a substantial increase from 2020 but below the consumption levels recorded pre-Covid.

“While methylamphetamine consumption is currently at high levels compared to the past two years, levels are still mostly below historical highs in the context of the program,” the report states.

For cocaine, Australians consumed about six doses per 1000 people, an upswing from earlier periods despite fluctuations from month-to-month.

“Compared to the previous reporting period, results are currently higher in every capital city of the country except NSW,” the report states.

“Even in that jurisdiction, cocaine use is at a high level.

“Consumption in regional areas has also increased in the current period, Tasmania being the only exception.”

The data comes from waste samples collected at 55 wastewater sites positioned around the country, capturing 14.1 million Australians, or 55 per cent of the population.

Australians living in capital cities consume more meth and cocaine than those in the regions, though in some states, the level of meth consumption is roughly equal.

South Australians consume about 1400mg of meth per 1000 people, with consumption rates in the regions matching Adelaide.

In Western Australia, more meth is consumed in regional cities than in Perth.

Unlike meth, cocaine use is heavily concentrated in the cities.

In Sydney, Australians consumed 1100mg per 1000 people compared to 440mg in regional NSW.

People in Adelaide consumed about 440mg per 1000 people compared to about 220 mg per 1000 in the regions.

The report collects data on 12 drug types: meth, amphetamines, cocaine, MDMA, MDA, heroin, cannabis, oxycodone, fentanyl, nicotine, alcohol and ketamine. 

Australians consume more cannabis than any other drug class, consuming about 180 doses per 1000 people per day across the month.

Despite the rise in cocaine and meth use, the report also shows some good news, with the consumption of fentanyl, a drug that has laid waste to American cities, in decline.

ACIC Acting CEO Matt Rippon said the report underlined the pervasive and ongoing threat posed by organised crime groups in Australia.

“This reporting forms part of a multidimensional approach that targets supply, demand and harm reduction critical to reducing drug use in Australia,” he said.

“Drug consumption estimates derived from wastewater data, when used in combination with other data such as seizure, arrest, price, purity, health and availability data, provide the most comprehensive, empirically-based insights into Australian drug markets.”

The ACIC provides intelligence to domestic and international partners to disrupt and dismantle organised drug networks.


Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.