The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS)

Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

Australian Government Department of Health

Drug Type:
Image: IDRS logo
Project Members
image - 1314680208 Natasha Sindicich 20
Senior Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0191
image - 1314150148 Jenny Stafford 007
Senior Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0244
Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0256
image - Ndarc 032
Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0187
image - Ndarc 053
Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0333
image - David Mckell Square
Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0407
Project Main Description

The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is a national illicit drug monitoring system intended to serve as a strategic early warning system, identifying emerging trends of local and national concern in illicit drug markets.  The IDRS consists of three components: interviews with people who inject drugs (PWID) regularly; interviews with key experts (KEs), who are professionals who have knowledge of drug trends and/or regular contact with users through their work; and analysis and examination of indicator data sources related to illicit drugs.  The IDRS monitors the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis. The IDRS is designed to be sensitive to trends, providing data in a timely manner, rather than describing issues in detail.


The aims of this project are:

  • to monitor the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis

  • to identify emerging trends in illicit drug markets in Australia that require further investigation

Design and Method

The IDRS analyses three main sources of information to document drug trends:

  • a quantitative survey of people who inject drugs (PWID)

  • a semi-structured interview with key experts (KE), who are professionals working in the illicit drug field, and have regular contact with and/or specialised knowledge of users, dealers or manufacturers

  • a collation of existing indicator data on drug-related issues

Data from these three sources are triangulated against each other to determine the convergent validity of trends detected. The data sources complement each other in the nature of the information they provide. Data from each year's IDRS studies are compared to earlier findings to determine changes in drug trends over time. The strengths of the IDRS are the ability to compare data across jurisdictions as well as over time. 


The IDRS is an ongoing project that is conducted annually in all Australian jurisdictions. In 2013, 887 IDU were interviewed across Australia, providing information on their use patterns, drug markets and related issues. Key experts from a range of professions provided information on the ecstasy and related drug users they had contact with. Indicator data including Australian Customs Service seizures, purity analysis, overdose and treatment data were examined.

The project is ongoing in 2014.


Drug Trends hosts an annual conference in October. The 13th National Drug Trends Conference was held on October 15, 2013. To view selected posters and presentations from the conference, please visit the event page.

Throughout the year, quarterly bulletins outlining current drug trends or issues of interest are disseminated. These bulletins are available on the NDARC website on the 'Drug Trends' group page. 

Finally, national and state reports of IDRS findings are released in April each year. Recent national and jurisdictional reports can be found at the bottom of this page. Older reports can be accessed by going to the Resources page and clicking on 'Drug Trends National Reports' or 'Drug Trends State Reports' on the right hand menu. You can also search for a specific report in the Resources page search bar.

Papers published in 2013-14:

Lancaster, K., Sutherland, R. and Ritter, A. (2014). Examining the opinions of people who use drugs towards drug policy in Australia. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 21(2):93-101. 
McIlwraith, F., Steven Betts, K., Jenkinson, R., Hickey, S., Burns, L. and Rosa Alati (2014), Is low BMI Associated with Specific Drug Use Among Injecting Drug Users? Substance Use and Misuse, 49(4): 374-382.
Reddel, S. E., Bruno, R., Burns, L., Kirwan, A., Lokuge, K. and Dietze, P. (2014). Prevalence and associations of quetiapine fumarate misuse among an Australian national city sample of people who regularly inject drugs. Addiction, 109(2): 295-302.
Lancaster, K., Ritter, A and Stafford, J. (2013). Public opinion and drug policy in Australia: Engaging the ‘affected community’. Drug and Alcohol Review. 32(1):60-66.
James Fetherston, Susan Carruthers, Tony Butler, David Wilson, & Natasha Sindicich (2013) Rates of injection in prison in a sample of Australian-injecting drug users, Journal of Substance Use, 18(1): 65-73.
D. Horyniak, P. Dietze, L. Degenhardt, P. Higgs, F. McIlwraith, R. Alati, R. Bruno, S. Lenton, L. Burns (2013) The relationship between age and risky injecting behaviours among a sample of Australian people who inject drugs, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132(3):541-546.
Arora, S., Roxburgh, A., Bruno, R., Nielsen, S. and Burns, L. (2013), A cross-sectional analysis of over-the-counter codeine use among an Australian sample of people who regularly inject drugs. Drug and Alcohol Review, 32: 574–581.
Project Supporters

Australian Government Department of Health

Drug Type
Project Status
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