In 1998, the Australian Government Department of Health and (AGDHA) commissioned the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) to implement a national Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) to monitor emerging trends related to the use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis in the Australian community. The IDRS study provides nationally comparable data with respect to patterns of injecting drug use (IDU) and related harms and informs future policy and research initiatives.
The majority of available data related to patterns of illicit drug use and associated morbidity and mortality are lag indicators, meaning the most recent data available may be up to 12 months old and therefore insufficient for strategic early warning purposes on their own. The IDRS serves as a strategic early warning mechanism because it supplements available secondary indicator data sources with lead indicators, such as direct surveys with groups of people who inject drugs (PWID) and key experts (KE) from each capital city in Australia. Findings from successive IDRS studies conducted in metropolitan Melbourne have informed health, law enforcement (LE) and community sector responses to illicit drugs in Victoria since 1997.