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Opiate use amongst Australian police detainees higher than in the United States

Media Release

28 February 2001

A research paper released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) Drug Use Amongst Police Detainees: Some Comparative Data has confirmed a link between drug use and criminal activity, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Adam Graycar said.

The study by Dr Toni Makkai compares results from the Australian Institute of Criminology's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) project during 1999 to similar research in England, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. Although some sites test juveniles and females too, the results in this paper are for adult males only. "This research, funded through the Federal Government's National Illicit Drug Strategy, will provide valuable information to feed into State and Federal crime prevention strategies," Dr Graycar said.

More than 45% of detainees in Bankstown and 38% in Parramatta tested positive to opiates, while in the United States the highest rates of opiate use were significantly lower at 20% in Chicago, 16% in Washington DC and 15% in New York City.

"What's interesting about these results is not just the variations between countries, but the variations across countries and even cities. Drug markets are highly localised and this research will help target specific areas with appropriate drug prevention strategies", Dr Graycar said.

The highest rate of opiate use overall was recorded in Liverpool, England (50%), while all three South African sites in the study tested lowest: Durban (0.6%), Gauteng (2.5%) and Cape Town (2.6%). More than 45% of detainees in Bankstown tested positive to opiates while in the United States the highest rates of opiate use were significantly lower at 20% in Chicago, 16% in Washington DC and 15% in New York City.

Very little cocaine was detected amongst detainees in any of the sites in Australia (Bankstown 2.8%), Scotland or South Africa. However detainees in Atlanta and Miami in the United States recorded 51% and 49% respectively, and 40% of detainees in Liverpool tested positive for cocaine.

The results for amphetamines varied greatly - Australia: 4-14%, United States: 0-27%, England: 4-21% and Scotland: 6-10%. South African detainees recorded a negligible level of amphetamines.

All testing is voluntary and confidential with detainees asked to complete an interview and then to provide a urine specimen. Response rates have been positive, with 86% of Australian detainees agreeing to an interview and 70% of those agreeing to a urine test.