Of Substance eBulletin, 9 October 2012
Snapshot: Drug use in 2012
The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is a monitoring program which annually maps drug trends in capital cities across the country. Surveying people who inject drugs (PWID) and others who work in the illicit drug area (e.g. police, health workers), along with drawing on other data collections, the IDRS identifies emerging patterns of drug use and enables governments, police and health workers to prepare for likely consequences of that drug use.
• Heroin remained the most commonly reported drug of choice for participants who inject drugs. Its use, frequency and price remained stable. Availability was reported as 'very easy' or 'easy' and purity 'low' or 'medium'.
• Nationally, the recent use of speed remained relatively stable, while the recent use of base was lower (21% in 2011 vs. 18% in 2012 and ice/crystal higher (45% in 2011 vs. 54% in 2012). The frequency of use of 'any form' of methamphetamine (speed, base and/or ice/crystal), was higher in 2012 (19 days in 2011 vs. 22 days in 2012). The availability of all forms was reported as 'easy' or 'very easy' to obtain.
• NSW was the only place where sizeable numbers of participants reported recent cocaine use and could comment on price, purity and availability. In Sydney, the recent use and frequency of cocaine use was slightly lower (but not significant; 47% in 2011 vs. 44% in 2012). Elsewhere, cocaine use was low and sporadic.
• The cannabis market remained stable. Use was common, with most people using daily or near-daily. High-quality hydroponic cannabis dominated the market.
• Non-medical use and injection of pharmaceutical preparations continued to occur, with jurisdictional differences in patterns of use.
• Borrowing of needles was reported by 7% of respondents in the month preceding interview, while sharing of other injecting equipment was common.
• Nearly half of the national sample self-reported a mental health problem in the last six months, most commonly depression, followed by anxiety.
• Preference (drug of choice) for ecstasy has begun to return but was not significant (32% in 2012 versus 27% in 2011) followed by cannabis. Alcohol has overtaken cocaine as the third drug of choice.
• Whilst the most popular form of ecstasy consumed on a regular basis is pills (tablet form), there has been an increasing trend in the use of powder and the capsule form and more recently MDMA crystals or Ecstasy rock.
• Whilst ecstasy consumption patterns remained stable market characteristics signified a change in trend with an increase in the ease of availability reported for obtaining ecstasy and purity has also reportedly increased with more reports of ecstasy being of 'high' purity.
• Methamphetamine (all forms: speed powder, base and ice/crystal meth) recent use remained stable, with increased reports of difficulty obtaining 'speed' powder.
• Cocaine recent use decreased, however perceived purity of cocaine increased with more participants reporting that it was of 'high' purity.
• Hallucinogen LSD has significantly decreased in use in 2012 (34% in 2012 vs. 46% in 2011) whilst ketamine and GHB remained stable.
• Cannabis and tobacco were two of the highest drugs recently used in the sample. The proportion of daily cannabis smokers increased (24% in 2012 vs. 18% in 2011).
• EPS continues to grow as a class of drug. Though small, a significant increase in synthetic cannabinoids was reported in 2012 (15% in 2012 vs. 6% in 2011).