Drug testing a stimulating conversation

The fifth report into national drug testing using wastewater has been released.

If you take illegal drugs, hearing that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is drug testing your wastewater might cause you some concern. However, in this case, you have nothing to worry about.

It’s all to do with the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, commissioned by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which is using wastewater from sites around Australia to test for levels of illicit and licit drugs. The fifth report from the program was released last week and provided some interesting insights into drug use by Australians and how we compare with the rest of the world.

Here are some of the finding from the wastewater drug testing:

  • Australia ranks second highest of 23 countries with comparable data for total estimated stimulant consumption (specifically MDMA, cocaine, amphetamine and methylamphetamine). The highest consumption was recorded in the United States.
  • It is estimated that more than 8.3 tonnes of methylamphetamine is consumed in Australia each year, as well as more than 3 tonnes of cocaine, 1.2 tonnes of MDMA and more than 700 kilograms of heroin.
  • There was an overall decrease in the population-weighted average consumption of many of the drugs measured by the program from December 2017 to April 2018.
  • Nationally, of those drugs focussed on in the drug testing, nicotine and alcohol remain the highest consumed substances.
  • Despite decreases in methylamphetamine consumption between December 2017 and April 2018, most notably in South Australia and Western Australia, it remains the highest consumed illicit drug monitored by the program.
  • One particular concern from this recording period was a rise in fentanyl consumption, particularly in regional sites. Average fentanyl consumption in both capital city and regional sites in April 2018 were the highest levels recorded since the program began, with regional consumption more than doubling from April 2017 to April 2018. While fentanyl consumption measured by the program reflects both licit and illicit use (fentanyl is a prescribed drug) increased consumption is of concern as the high potency of fentanyl greatly increases the risk of overdose.
  • Sampling undertaken in April 2018, for the fifth report, covered 54.8 per cent of the Australian population, which equates to about 12.8 million people. Forty-seven wastewater treatment plants across Australia participated in the collection of the wastewater samples, covering 12 substances.

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Michael Phelan APM, said the drug testing of the wastewater provides a measure of the demand for a range of drugs.

“This allows governments to effectively direct resources to priority areas and monitor the progress of demand and supply reduction strategies.”



The fifth report into national drug testing using wastewater has been released. Credit Joe Jungmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/joejungmann/16379225068/

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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