Delivered by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program supports the National Drug Strategy through its timely provision of data on changes in alcohol and other drug consumption habits among Australian police detainees and through its monitoring and reporting of fluctuations in the illicit drug market. Since 1999, 51,748 detainees have been interviewed, of whom 37,398 also provided a urine sample that was analysed to identify licit and illicit drug use. The data gathered through DUMA has informed government policy and research, and contributed to the National Drug Strategy aims of improving health, social and economic outcomes by reducing supply, demand and harm.
There has been significant interest in the AIC’s monitoring of methamphetamine trends over the past two years. The AIC has contributed to the national debate on this important issue by releasing a number of publications on methamphetamine in 2013–14, presenting DUMA data in a range of forums and informing government policy via parliamentary inquiry submissions.
First detected in the 2011–12 DUMA monitoring report, this new DUMA data shows the continuing national rise in methamphetamine use among Australian police detainees. Methamphetamine use was identified in 23 percent of urine samples provided by detainees in Adelaide, 24 percent in Bankstown, 34 percent in Brisbane, 37 percent in East Perth and 52 percent in Kings Cross.
Given the high rate of methamphetamine dependency and the side effects associated with its use, the AIC will continue to monitor trends in the use of methamphetamines and market trends such as availability and purity. Through the DUMA program, the AIC will also continue to seek opportunities to examine broader issues associated with methamphetamine use, such as its relationship to criminal and antisocial behaviour and its impacts on Australian communities.
The DUMA program also contributed to the National Drug Strategy discourse through its examination of the harm minimisation impact of reductions in supply of methamphetamine and cannabis. In the third quarter of 2013, 60 percent of detainees were identified as recent cannabis users and 47 percent as recent methamphetamine users. While detainees reported both substances were readily available, almost half of these users reported experiencing a period of reduced availability (50% of cannabis users and 44% of methamphetamine users). During a period of reduced availability the majority of cannabis (80%) and methamphetamine (78%) users reported abstaining from using that drug. The majority of users also reported no increase in their use of alcohol or illicit drugs during periods of reduced cannabis or methamphetamine availability. These findings suggest that supply-side reduction strategies may be effective in terms of harm minimisation: that is, a reduction in supply appears to reduce use of that drug without increasing the use of other substances.
In 2013–14 the DUMA program extended its collection of data to meet an identified need in the community for greater information on recidivism, particularly concerning offending while on bail or court orders. A substantial proportion of the DUMA sample were identified as recidivist offenders: 47 percent of detainees reported they had been charged on another occasion in the past 12 months, although the outcome of those charges was not reported; 21 percent reported they had been released from prison in the last 12 months; seven percent reported they had been released from prison in the last one to two years; and 17 percent reported they were on parole at the time of their current police detention. The AIC will continue to monitor this important issue and develop the depth of DUMA data, particularly in terms of the indicators of recidivism.
The ability of the DUMA program to provide trend data and confidently report emerging illicit drug market trends is a realisation of the Commonwealth government’s commitment to and support of this program over the past 16 years. The program’s longevity would also be impossible without the efforts and expertise of local researchers, and particularly the ongoing support and professionalism of the state and territory police connected to the DUMA collection sites.
Chris Dawson APM
Australian Institute of Criminology