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Wastewater reveals national trends in illicit substance use

Results from an ongoing drug-use survey utilising wastewater treatment data has estimated at least 8387kg of methylamphetamine, 3075kg cocaine, 1280kg of MDMA and 765kg heroin is consumed in Australia each year.

Around 50 wastewater treatment sites around Australia have participated in the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s (ACIC) National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, with ACIC contracting the University of Queensland and University of South Australia to deliver the program.

Capital city sites will be monitored for the duration of the program, while the regional sites will be reassessed periodically.

The sites have been selected on the basis of permitting ACIC to provide data, as well as focusing on regions of concern from a drug-use perspective.

In December 2017, 45 wastewater treatment plants participated nationally to cover more than 54.3% of the population, showing alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed substances in Australia, with methylamphetamine the most consumed illicit drug tested.

In capital cities, cocaine and heroin average consumption exceeded regional consumption, and regional nicotine, methylamphetamine, MDMA, oxycodone and fentanyl average consumption exceeded capital city consumption.

ACIC contends that the findings of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program analysis will be crucial to the development of government policy and decision making.

The reports will provide a regular, timely and detailed measure of the level of demand for the listed commodities in the Australian population, complementing other drug datasets published in Australia.