The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is an ongoing research project that serves as a strategic early-warning system for emerging trends and patterns in illicit drug use and associated harms. Since 1999, the IDRS has been conducted annually in every state and territory of Australia, and it is currently funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (AGDH&A). The IDRS focuses primarily on four main illicit drugs: heroin, amphetamines, cocaine, and cannabis, but also monitors trends in other drugs and in drug-related harms.
An important feature of the IDRS is that it aims to disseminate its findings in a timely fashion, highlighting current issues that require further attention rather than providing a more protracted, in-depth analysis of available data. Each year, key findings are presented at the National Drug Trends Conference in October, and the final report is published by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) early the following year. In addition, NDARC produces an annual national report and, in collaboration with jurisdictional researchers, quarterly Drug Trends Bulletins highlighting issues of particular relevance. Selected findings from the IDRS are also published in peer-reviewed journals.
Data for the IDRS come from three complementary sources: (a) a survey of injecting drug users (IDU or participants) who are considered a ‘sentinel’ group in the community; (b) structured interviews with key experts (KE) working in the drug and alcohol field; and (c) pre-existing data sets. By triangulating information from these three sources, the IDRS is able to assess, with some confidence, the reliability and validity of its findings.
The participant survey component of the IDRS has been conducted in Queensland since 2000, and with each passing year the value of the data set grows. Apparent trends from one year to the next can increasingly be interpreted within a broader historical context, and longer-term trends in drug use and associated harms can be identified. Along with other complementary monitoring systems such as the national Ecstasy and Related Drug Reporting System (EDRS) and the crimefocused Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) study, the IDRS helps to paint a contextualised picture of drug use and drug-related issues in Australia.
As in previous years, the aims of the 2009 Queensland IDRS were to:
- document the price, purity, and availability of heroin, amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and other drugs in Queensland; and
- identify, assess, and report on emerging trends in illicit drug use and associated harms.