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First results from Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) project

Media Release

09 January 2000

Around two thirds of all arrestees in the Southport watchhouse on the Gold Coast in Queensland tested positive to a drug at the time of arrest. 41 per cent tested positive to one drug alone, 14 per cent to two drugs, and 8 per cent to three drugs.

These are among the findings of a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology, Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA): Preliminary Results from the Southport Site, 1999, by Toni Makkai and Marni Feather. These data are part of a larger national project that has sites in NSW and WA.

"These data demonstrate that relying on administrative data, such as police charge data, would grossly underestimate the extent of drug use across a range of criminal activity", Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology said today.

The Southport data shows that for violent offenders, 58 per cent tested positive for cannabis, 20 percent to benzodiazepines and 15 per cent to amphetamines. For property offenders, 70 per cent tested positive to cannabis, and 29 per cent to opiates. For drink drivers, 62 per cent tested positive to cannabis, and 18 per cent to amphetamines.

"We now have evidence that illicit drug use is not only linked with property offences, as is commonly recognised, but is also found amongst other types of offenders", Dr Graycar said.

A similar program in the United States detected the mid 1980s increase in cocaine use a year before the trend was seen in treatment admissions, overdose deaths or emergency room admission.

The United States program was also able to detect an increase in marijuana use among young people in the early 1990s two years before it was detected in national surveys.

The Southport data recently discerned a significant decrease in the numbers testing positive for amphetamines. This coincided with operations by the Queensland Police Service, and shows the value of DUMA to provide timely feedback to police services.

"Reports from other DUMA sites in Australia will be released in the near future", Dr Graycar said.

The Australian Institute of Criminology also released, Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA): A Brief Description, by Toni Makkai, today.