fbpx ‘Trafficking’ or ‘personal use’: Do regular drug users understand Australian drug trafficking laws? | NDARC - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

‘Trafficking’ or ‘personal use’: Do regular drug users understand Australian drug trafficking laws?

image - Dpmp15 280
Date Commenced:
Project Supporters:

Colonial Foundation Trust

Project Members: 
Mr Nicholas Cowdery
Adjunct Professor
Project Main Description: 

Most Australian states and territories have adopted legal thresholds for drug trafficking, over which possession of an illicit drug is deemed ‘trafficking’ as opposed to ‘personal use’. Yet the extent to which regular drug users understand the laws and their implications has been subject to limited academic scrutiny. 


This project will start to explore regular drug users’ levels of awareness and accuracy of knowledge about drug trafficking laws across Australia, taking into account different populations of users and different legal contexts. 

Design and Method: 

User perceptions about legal thresholds for trafficking will be assessed firstly, amongst two national samples of Australian regular drug users: namely, participants in the 2012 Ecstasy and related Drug Reporting System (EDRS) and 2012 Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). Perceptions knowledge will then be compared against the current drug trafficking laws and drug use behaviour.


In 2012 we completed analysis of the IDRS and EDRS samples. This revealed some clear gaps in knowledge. For example, amongst the IDRS sample of people who inject drugs regularly, most were aware that quantity possessed would affect charge received, but many either failed to nominate any specific quantity that would constitute an offence of supply or nominated a quantity that was larger than the actual quantity for supply. That said, our analysis also revealed levels of knowledge were higher in the EDRS sample, but still had some areas of clear gaps in knowledge. Across both samples poor legal knowledge was also associated with higher risk purchasing patterns.



Hughes, C.E., Ritter, A., Cowdery, N. & Sindicich, N. (2014) “Trafficking” or “personal use”:  Do people who regularly inject drugs understand Australian drug trafficking laws?  Drug and Alcohol Review. DOI: 10.1111/dar.12167


Posters and presentations: 

Hughes, C., Ritter, A., Cowdery, N. (2013, September). Poster presentation: “Trafficking” or “personal use”: Do regular injecting drug users understand Australian drug trafficking laws? NDARC Annual Research Symposium, UNSW, Sydney. 4 September. 
Hughes, C. (2012, November). 'Trafficking'or 'personal use': Do regular drug users understand Australian drug trafficking laws? APSAD Conference, Melbourne. 20 November.

This will start to provide insight into the extent to which there is a need to increase awareness of drug trafficking laws amongst all/particular populations of regular drug users. 

Project Research Area: 
Project Status: 
Year Completed: