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City v. regional drug use study released

Media Release

21 May 2001

Media release from Senator, the Hon Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs

Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, today released a research paper surveying changes in drug use in regional and rural Australia over the past decade in comparison with city drug users.

Senator Ellison said the paper, Illicit Drug Use in Regional Australia, 1988-1998, produced by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that although drug usage had increased in rural and regional communities over the past decade, the gap between regional and city drug usage levels continued to grow.

"On a comparative basis, the study found there were less drug users in regional and rural areas than in cities. The research though does demonstrate that the proportion of people in regional and rural communities who have tried illicit drugs has increased over the past decade."

For example between 1998 and 1998 amphetamine usage increased from 3.5% to 8.1%, cocaine increased from 2.7% to 3.7%, ecstasy increased from 1.4% to 4.7%, heroin increased form 1.3% to 2.3% and cannabis from 27.8% to 40.8%.

Senator Ellison said they survey of 5,000 regional, rural and remote residents the survey revealed findings peculiar to regional areas.

"While increases in drug use rates in the city outstripped those in the country for most drug types, the growth of heroin, tranquillisers and painkiller use was greater in regional than in city areas of Australia."

"Importantly, the research demonstrates that fewer drug users in regional and rural areas maintained their habit compared with those who lived in the city."

"Both these important findings point to a lack of availability of certain types of illicit drugs in regional and rural areas," Senator Ellison said.

Other key findings include:

  • Drug use in regional and rural areas between 1985 and 1995 were similar to those observed in city areas between one and eight years earlier; and
  • Rates of lifetime drug use (used at least once) grew faster than in metropolitan areas between 1988 and 1998.

"This type of research is important because it provides Government and the community with the same sort of information about drug usage and trends for regional areas as exists for the cities. It will also assist Government and community organisations to better target drug education, rehabilitation and education programmes to meet the needs of regional and rural communities, which are, as this research demonstrates, different from city drug users," Senator Ellison said.

Senator Ellison said that since the research had been conducted the Howard Government, together with the State's and Territories, had made a substantial investment in drug education and rehabilitation programmes around Australia.

"Through the Tough on Drugs Strategy the Howard Government has invested $110 million in a range of diversionary drug programmes in cooperation with the States and Territories, community and charitable organisations.

Diversionary programmes are currently operating in news South Wales and Victoria, and Western Australian and Queensland have recently signed onto the agreement.

To date, this funding has been invested in a range of innovative diversionary programmes in regional areas including:

  • A statewide Cannabis Cautioning Scheme in NSW and Victoria;
  • A Drug Offenders Compulsory Treatment Pilot in the Illawarra and Far North Coast regions;
  • An Early Intervention Pilot Scheme in Lismore;
  • An Illicit Drug Diversion scheme in Geelong, Loddon Mallee, Grampians, Gippsland and Hume regions of Victoria;
  • Extension of the CREDIT Programme (referral to treatment as part of bail conditions) to Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Moe over the next two years;
  • A 15 bed detoxification centre in Orange; and
  • A community based home detoxification service with 24-nursing support in Kerang, in Northern Victoria.