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Indicators of an increase in heroin availability in Western Australia

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Author: James Fetherston and Simon Lenton

Resource Type: Drug Trends Bulletins

Key findings

  • Since 2002, heroin has consistently been the preferred drug of choice among the WA IDRS user sample.
  • ƒƒThere is evidence that heroin in WA is perceived by users in the IDRS sample being as ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to obtain.
  • The perceptions of users interviewed in the IDRS are that over recent years heroin purity levels have been increasing.
  • In recent years there have been increases in the proportion of IDRS respondents reporting recent use of heroin and in increases in the number of days of use of the drug in the previous 6 months.
  • This increased level of heroin use has been accompanied by an increased incidence of overdose, including a higher proportion of respondents in the WA IDRS user sample reporting that their most recent overdose had occurred in the last 12 months, and an increased number of narcotic overdose events attended by St John’s Ambulance Association.
  • Despite the trend in the above indicators, there has not yet been a return to the very high levels of overdose seen in the late 90s. This is probably largely attributable to purity, which although fluctuating and increasing, has not yet reaching the sustained high purity levels seen in the pre- ‘drought’ period.
  • However, the data provide no indication of whether there have been increases in new initiates to heroin use in the general community.
  • Assuming that the trends in heroin availability and purity continue or increase, it is essential that the training of users and other potential overdose witnesses in overdose prevention and management including naloxone administration is expanded.