It’s that time of year again, folks: when researchers sift through Australia’s wastewater to find out what drugs we’ve been cramming our various orifices recently. And the results confirm what everyone in the country knows anecdotally to be true – Sydneysiders consume far more coke than anyone else.
The figures come from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission‘s examination of wastewater treatment plants, which is compiled in conjunction with the University of Queensland and University of South Australia. According to the report, Australians spent $9.3 billion on illicit drugs in the year leading up to August 2018.
The general gist of the results? Cocaine and meth consumption are up, wheres MDMA and heroin use are down. The report estimates that more than 9.6 tonnes of meth were consumed, compared with four tonnes of coke, 1.1 tonnes of MDMA and roughly 700 kilos of heroin.
These numbers are estimates, and they’re based on wastewater results which cover 56% of the country’s population – equating to roughly 13 million people.
“It is astounding that Australians waste over $9.3 billion a year on drugs,” ACIC chief executive officer Michael Phelan said in a statement. “This is money people could be spending on legitimate goods for themselves and their families.”
For the most part, methamphetamine use far outstripped cocaine use – except in Sydney and some parts of regional NSW. For every 1000 people, 1.2 grams of cocaine was consumed daily in Sydney, compared to 400mg in Brisbane and Melbourne. That’s quite a gulf!
In regional areas, average consumption of nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis generally exceeded consumption in capital cities.
ACIC’s report comes in the middle of intense national debate about pill testing at festivals. It’s interesting that the results indicate that MDMA use is actually down nationally – to the tune of a 7.1% decrease – in both regional and capital areas.
Cannabis was included in the study for the first time, finding that Australians in regional areas generally smoke more weed than do their urban counterparts. The study’s authors acknowledge that the marker for cannabis use is excreted in small quantities, making it more difficult to detect and draw spatial conclusions from. Nonetheless, it’s obvious that weed is one of the most used illicit substances in the country.
There you go. Whichever way you spin it, here’s the biggest fact: we’re using a lot of drugs.