News location:

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Heroin’s a big hit in Canberra’s wastewater

From Report 21 of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

“Canberra is described as the exception regarding heroin use. The report shows a significant increase between July and September. In this period, on a per capita basis, Canberrans had the highest use in Australia,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE

Recent national wastewater analysis has painted an interesting picture of drug use in Canberra and across Australia. 

Michael Moore.

The most interesting observation is that Canberrans’ drug use is generally on a par with other parts of Australia. 

However, the use of some drugs, such as methamphetamine, is way below the Australian average. Others, such as heroin, are more widely used in the ACT.

We do not yet have a good insight into the impact of the decriminalisation of the so-called hard drugs in the ACT following the move last year by the government to limit penalties for the personal use of all illicit drugs. An on-the-spot fine or taking a treatment option are available for personal use of illicit drugs. 

Report 21 of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) looked at samples for the 12 months from August 2022 to August 2023.

This was before the legislation tabled by Michael Pettersson MLA came into force. However, Report 21’s great value is that it does establish a bottom line regarding drug use. The next national wastewater report will allow a comparison of drug use before and after the enactment of the legislation.

The report examines the quantity of drugs consumed by users. However, this is not the only issue being addressed when legislation such as that introduced by Mr Pettersson is considered. There are many other issues. These include crime, harm to the users and their families and the impact on the community.

The CEO of the ACIC explained the focus for her organisation is the threat of serious and organised crime groups. She said: “Our wastewater analysis is used in conjunction with seizure, arrest, price, health and availability data, which reveals drug market resilience and points of vulnerability that present opportunities for co-ordinated strategies to improve community safety”.

The latest wastewater report is here.

There are a range of issues that Report 21 has raised for Australians generally and for Canberrans in particular. There has been a significant reduction in use of alcohol in Canberra since the last report. Nicotine use is on the increase – most likely fuelled by e-cigarettes. There is a similar story in other capital cities but not so in regional Australia.

The ACIC pointed to a “tangible increase” in the use of methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA across Australia.

Canberra is described as the exception regarding heroin use. The report shows a significant increase between July and September of 2023. In this period, on a per capita basis, Canberrans had the highest use in Australia. 

However, although a careful examination of the report shows a spike in that period, there was a similar spike in usage in August 2020. 

Report 21 notes: “At the national level, heroin consumption in capital cities exceeds that of regional areas. The consumption of heroin has fluctuated over the life of the program. The regional average consumption of heroin increased in August 2023 (as did capital city consumption) and is similar to levels observed in August 2020 and August 2022.”

The “party drug”, MDMA, showed similar usage levels between regional areas and capital cities. This is a change from the past where levels in regional areas were higher than in our capital cities.

According to the report: “Cannabis consumption is substantially higher in regional areas, nearly double that of the capital cities, and has fluctuated with no clear patterns. Although cannabis consumption has fluctuated over time, current national consumption estimates are higher than when it was first measured for the program in August 2018.”

The use of cannabis in the ACT has been on a par with regional usage and is well above usage in the other capital cities.

The variability of drug use across different states and across a range of drugs indicates that there are many more factors at play than legislation enacted in any jurisdiction. 

The next report of the ACIC will provide an interesting insight into the impact of the decriminalisation in the ACT by not only allowing comparisons over time, but also between jurisdictions.

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

ACT statistics and graphs: here.

The main report: here.

 

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

Share this

One Response to Heroin’s a big hit in Canberra’s wastewater

cbrapsycho says: 19 March 2024 at 2:10 pm

Both cannabis and heroin are used for pain relief as well as escapism being downers, whilst many of the other drugs are uppers to energise, increase confidence and increase feelings. From this perspective, the differences in locational usage is interesting.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Follow us on Instagram @canberracitynews