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Australian Drug Trends 2005: Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS)

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Author: Jenny Stafford, Louisa Degenhardt, Emma Black, Raimondo Bruno, Kirsten Buckingham, James Fetherston, Rebecca Jenkinson, Stuart Kinner, Jaclyn Newman, Josephine Weekley

Resource Type: Monographs

NDARC Monograph No. 59 (2005)

The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is 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 injecting drug users (IDU); interviews with key experts (KE), professionals who have regular contact with illicit drug 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. It is designed to be sensitive to trends, providing data in a timely manner, rather than describing issues in detail. It is important to note that the information from the IDU survey is not representative of illicit drug use in the general population nor is the information representative of all illicit drug users, but is indicative of emerging trends that warrant further monitoring. Drug trends in this publication are cited by jurisdiction, although they primarily represent trends in the capital city of each jurisdiction, in which new drug trends are likely to emerge.

Key findings from the 2005 IDRS:

1. In 2005 there appeared to be a continual trend towards the stabilisation of heroin in most jurisdictions; however, the frequency of use decreased or remained stable in most jurisdictions. The availability of heroin was reported to be ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’, with large proportions reporting availability as stable. The price of a gram of heroin remained stable in most jurisdictions except in SA, WA and the NT where it increased by $50 or more. Heroin was cheapest in NSW and was most expensive in WA. The purity of heroin was reported to be low to medium.

2. Methamphetamine prices varied among the jurisdictions; however, prices for all forms were reported as stable. The majority of respondents in all jurisdictions reported that speed and base were all ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain, whereas ice was ‘easy’. Participants reported that availability of all forms of methamphetamine was stable over the last six months. Substantial proportions of IDU continued to use all forms of methamphetamine. The purity of speed was considered ‘low’, base ‘medium’ and crystal ‘high’. Substantial proportions of IDU in TAS and WA reported use of pharmaceutical stimulants.

3. With the exception of NSW, only small numbers were able to comment on the price of cocaine. In NSW the price of cocaine has remained stable since 2004. The proportions of IDU reporting recent cocaine use increased slightly in all jurisdictions except in the NT and QLD. The frequency of cocaine use remained stable in all jurisdictions except in NSW (increased) and in QLD (decreased).

4. Cannabis remained easy to obtain in all jurisdictions. Hydroponically grown cannabis continued to dominate the market and was considered ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain in all jurisdictions. The use of outdoor cultivated cannabis (bush), hashish (hash) and hash oil were noted in all jurisdictions. The price and availability were considered to be stable, and the potency ‘high’ for hydroponic and ‘medium’ for bush cannabis.