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Heroin use amongst detainees still lower than pre-drought levels

Media Release

15 August 2004

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

Heroin use amongst Australian detainees is still below the levels recorded prior to the heroin drought whilst methamphetamine use continues to rise, according to a new survey of drug use amongst detainees released today by the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison.

Releasing the 2003 Annual Report on Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA), Senator Ellison said the survey figures would provide an invaluable input into the Australian Government's approach to rehabilitation, education and law enforcement to tackle illicit drug use.

"DUMA has detected that heroin use has remained low since the heroin shortage in 2001 highlighting the Australian government's successful supply interdiction efforts by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs Service, international law enforcement and State and Territory police services," Senator Ellison said.

"Australia is unique amongst Western countries in that the Government is not aware of any other similar country experiencing a sustained heroin shortage.

"Although the Government's Tough on Drugs policy has produced results, the war on drugs continues and there are many challenges ahead.

"DUMA has been in operation since 1999 and has provided police, policy-makers, criminal justice practitioners and other professionals with vital long-term data on illicit drug use among people arrested and brought to a police station or watchhouse," he said.

"This unique data covers patterns of drug use, local drug markets, criminal activity, and treatment which is an invaluable aid to community planning, monitoring, state and federal law enforcement and resource allocation.

"It forms an important part of the Australian government's approach to reducing the use of illicit drugs in our community, which has included an investment of more than $1 billion in the Tough on Drugs strategy which tackles illicit drug use on three fronts: health, education and law enforcement."

The report also found:

  • Almost half of the detainees self-reported that they had used drugs, including medications, prior to their arrest;
  • Forty-three per cent said that they had sold illegal drugs for money at some point in their lives, however only 10 per cent said they were looking for illegal drugs at the time of their arrest;
  • Fifty-seven per cent of detainees had been arrested on a prior occasion. Forty eight per cent of these detainees tested positive to either heroin, methylamphetamine or cocaine;
  • Twenty per cent of the detainees had been in prison during the past year. Of this number, 54 per cent tested positive to either heroin, methylamphetamine or cocaine and 75 per cent of those who had been in prison for a drug offence tested positive to heroin, methylamphetamine or cocaine;
  • Methylamphetamine use continues to increase across all seven sites, and
  • For Bankstown, Parramatta, East Perth and Southport sites the use of heroin amongst detainees remains below the levels reported during 1999/2000. This is most evident in the Sydney and East Perth sites.

Funding has been provided from the Australian Government's National Illicit Drug Strategy for DUMA for the next five years. Since its inception, DUMA has collected questionnaire data from 12,777 detainees with urine specimens from 9,945 detainees, showing the Government's commitment to basing illicit drug policy on hard evidence.