In 1998, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) was commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services (now the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing) (AGDH&A) to begin a national trial of the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS), following a successful pilot study of the project’s methods in New South Wales in 1996 (Hando et al., 1997) and in the following year a multi-state trial in New South Wales (Hando & Darke, 1998), South Australia (Cormack et al., 1998) and Victoria (Rumbold & Fry, 1998).
The intention of the IDRS is to provide a coordinated approach to the monitoring of trends associated with the use of methamphetamine, opioids, cannabis and cocaine, in order that this information can act as an early indicator of emerging trends in illicit drug use. Additionally, the IDRS aims to be timely and sensitive enough to signal the existence of emerging problems of national importance rather than to describe phenomena in detail; instead, providing direction for issues that may require more detailed data collection, or are important from a policy perspective.
The full IDRS methodology involves a triangulated approach to data collection on drug trends, involving standardised surveys of people who regularly inject illicit drugs, a qualitative survey of key experts (KE) - individuals who have regular first-hand contact with groups of people who use illicit drugs, and an examination of existing available data sources or indicators relevant to drug use in each state. Following a replication of the IDRS process in 1998 in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the IDRS was expanded nationally for 1999, with these states continuing to follow the full methodology, while Western Australia, Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Tasmania examined drug use trends using an abbreviated design, utilising key expert interviews and examination of secondary data sources only. The National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) subsequently provided these states with additional funding to expand data collection to the full IDRS methodology for 2000 through to 2005. The full methodology of the IDRS nationally has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing since 2006.
The 2009 Tasmanian Drug Trends Report summarizes the information gathered in the Tasmanian component of the national IDRS using the three methods outlined above: a survey of people who regularly inject illicit drugs, ‘key expert’ interviews with professionals working with individuals who use illicit drugs, and an examination of existing indicators relating to drugs and drug use in the state. The methods are intended to complement and supplement each other, with each having its various strengths and limitations. Results are summarized by drug type to provide the reader with an abbreviated picture of illicit drug usage in Hobart and recent trends. Reports detailing Tasmanian drug trends from 1999 through to 2008 (Bruno & McLean 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004; Bruno, 2005, 2006, de Graaff & Bruno, 2007a, 2008, 2009) and state comparisons (McKetin et al., 2000; Topp et al., 2001, 2002; Breen et al., 2003, 2004; Stafford et al., 2005; O’Brien et al. 2006; Black et al., 2007 and 2008 and Stafford et al., 2009) are available as technical reports from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales.