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Illicit drug use in the ACT

Media Release

25 November 1999

Data gathered from a range of sources across the four main classes of drugs - cannabis, heroin, amphetamines and cocaine - indicates use increased between 1995/6 and 1998/9.

In general in 1998/99, users were younger, prices were lower, purity was higher and the drugs were available 'on demand'.

These are the main findings of a study by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University and the Australian Institute of Criminology into illicit drug use and related behaviours in the Australian Capital Territory. The findings are being presented at a conference in Sydney today. This study is part of the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS), which is coordinated by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

28 Key informants drawn from drug treatment workers, police officers, health workers, user group representatives and youth workers were interviewed during August and September 1999. In addition survey, health and law enforcement data were examined.

Reports from key informants and data from the ACT Government Analytical Laboratory and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence indicated that the cost of heroin was about $50 for a cap, purity was high (approximately 70%) and it was easy to obtain. Key informants reported an increase in heroin use, more younger users, more Indigenous users, more users from Asian backgrounds and increased smoking of heroin among users. According to The National Drug Strategy Household Survey of a random sample of over 1200 ACT residents aged 14 years and older, there has been an increase in the number who had used heroin in the past 12 months from 0.2% in 1995 to 0.4% in 1998. The same study found that 27% of heroin users in the ACT had overdosed one or more times when using heroin, with about half occurring in the 12 months prior to the study. The ACT Ambulance Service reported a total of 547 non-fatal heroin-related overdoses during 1998/99.

Results from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys indicated that between 1995 and 1998, the use of cannabis in the previous 12 months increased from 16% to 20% of ACT residents, use of amphetamines increased from 2% to 3%, and use of cocaine increased from 0.5 % to 1.1 %. Reports from key informants supported this apparent increase in the use of Cannabis, Amphetamines and Cocaine.

Reports from Key Informants suggested an increase in drug-related crime, especially violent crime, in police presence and drug-related arrests, and in physical and mental health related problems.

Conference Venue: Pavillion Ballroom. Swiss Grand Hotel Bondi Beach, Cnr Campbell Parade and Beach Road, Bondi Beach