Australian Institute of Criminology

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Poly drug use a challenge for law makers

Media Release

19 August 2011

The Australian Institute of Criminology today released a report on poly drug use by 3,852 police detainees who were interviewed through the Drug Use Monitoring Australia (DUMA) program of which 44% were poly drug users.

AIC research manager and report co-author Jason Payne said: “Poly drug use represents a difficult challenge for policymakers and practitioners in the criminal justice and law enforcement sectors as they are the users at greater risk of failing to comply with the conditions of court-imposed supervision and corrections orders, and are also likely to face more significant and adverse health problems than those who use just one drug type.”

The DUMA program, which combines confidential interviews with police detainees and urine tests to build a national picture of detainee crime and drug-use behaviours, and for this analysis focussed on poly drug use.

Nearly a third of detainees reporting using two or more drugs in the 30 days prior to being detained.

Detainees interviewed at the Kings Cross watch-house had the highest level of poly drug use in 2009, while those interviewed in Darwin had the lowest.

The most commonly recorded poly drug use combination was cannabis and amphetamine (30%), although in the majority of cases, cannabis was used more frequently than amphetamine. One in 10 poly drug users used cannabis and heroin as their primary and secondary drugs of concern.

“That poly drug users self-reported higher levels of criminal income and drug dealing suggests that, irrespective of how frequently they use, their engagement with multiple drug markets may promote a wider association with criminal and other drug using peers, and potentially, organised criminal networks,” Jason Payne said.

This interconnectedness may help to explain why poly drug users have greater difficulty successfully engaging in justice and treatment-based interventions that promote a change in peer and social networks.