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Increase in use of amphetamines amongst police detainees

Media Release

13 December 2000

A project monitoring illicit drug use amongst police detainees in Australia reveals that the use of amphetamines is increasing and that opiate use is higher in Sydney than other areas.

Patterns of Drug Use Amongst Police Detainees: 1999-2000 by Dr Toni Makkai, Doug Johnson and Dr Wendy Loxley is based on the findings of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) project, run by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

"Although there has been much anecdotal evidence, this is the first authoritative research into drug use by detainees in Australia. The monitoring of drug use amongst the criminally active is crucial to establishing an evidence-based policy agenda on drugs and crime", Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology said today.

The trends show relatively stable patterns in the use of cannabis and opiates, but significant changes in amphetamine use.

At the end of 1999, 14% of adult male detainees in East Perth tested positive to amphetamines, but three months later 38% tested positive. In Southport, 11% of female detainees tested positive in 1999, but six months later 39% tested positive.

The extent of recent opiate use amongst Sydney detainees was much higher than in either Southport or East Perth. On average, 40-45% of detainees tested positive to opiates in Bankstown and Parramatta, compared with 22% in East Perth and 13% in Southport.

Although the number of women interviewed is small, it is interesting to note that female detainees are more likely to test positive to illicit substances than male detainees. Females are less likely to test positive to cannabis, but more likely to test positive to amphetamines, cocaine and opiates.

The AIC intends to undertake a detailed analysis of gender differences arising from this project.

DUMA is a pilot study running from 1999 to 2001, funded under the Commonwealth National Illicit Drug Strategy. Data is collected every three months at four police sites: Bankstown and Parramatta in Sydney; Southport in Queensland; and East Perth. This paper is based on results from January 1999 to June 2000.

Detainees are asked if they would participate in an independent and confidential research project. They are also asked to provide a urine specimen. Around 85% (2428) of detainees asked to date have agreed to be interviewed and, of those, around 72% (1759) agreed to provide a urine specimen.