Sydneysiders are consuming more than twice as much cocaine as people in Melbourne and Brisbane, according to the nation’s sewers.

In August last year, for every 1000 people, 1.2 grams of cocaine was consumed daily in Sydney, compared with just over 400 milligrams in Melbourne and Brisbane.  NSW is consuming more than twice as much cocaine as Victoria and Queensland.  The figures were revealed in the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s most recent examination of wastewater treatment plants across the nation, compiled in partnership with the University of Queensland and University of South Australia.

It is the sixth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, which covers 56% of the population, or 13 million people, and is concluding its second year.  It found that capital city and regional locations in NSW in August last year were the only parts of Australia where cocaine consumption rivalled levels of methylamphetamine, or ice.  Everywhere else, cocaine use was detected to be far below that of methylamphetamine.  Nationally, more than 4.1 tonnes of cocaine was consumed between 2017 and 2018, an increase of 34.6% on the previous year, worth $1.5 billion.

Between August 2017 and August 2018, the study found $9.3 billion was spent on almost 10 tonnes of methylamphetamine, more than four tonnes of cocaine, 1.1 tonne of MDMA and 700kg of heroin.  Of the $9.3 billion, almost 80% was spent on methylamphetamine.  The heroin blocks were allegedly hidden in crates containing straw hats and souvenir items.  The dollar figure is not far off the $9.8 billion Australians are estimated to spend at cafes and coffee shops in a single year.  Over two years the study collected samples of 13 different substances, including alcohol, nicotine, oxycodone, heroin and MDMA (or ecstasy) from 58 wastewater treatment plants.

National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016, which collects information from 24,000 people across Australia has compiled a detailed picture of who uses what drugs and how often.  In NSW, data was collected from five wastewater plants in Sydney and seven from regional sites.  Each site was allocated a code, to maintain the confidentiality of participating sites.  The demand for illicit substances has not gone unnoticed by international drug dealers, with an estimated $1.29 billion worth of methylamphetamine bound for Australia seized recently in the USA, just weeks after 154kg of heroin worth around $77 million was seized by Border Force officials in Sydney.

“Australians waste over $9.3 billion a year on drugs,” ACIC chief executive officer Michael Phelan said. “This is money people could spend on items for themselves and their families.”  The report also recorded levels of cannabis consumption, which Mr Phelan described as “one of the most used illicit drugs, both domestically and internationally”.  Consumption of cannabis, a depressant, was reportedly low in NSW compared to the rest of Australia, with Tasmania recording the highest levels of use.  As the specific marker for cannabis consumption is excreted in extremely small amounts, the report’s authors identified possible “spatial differences across the nation”.

The drug consumption figures come after 5 drug related deaths at music festivals, which prompted debate over the merits of pill-testing and the dangers of party drugs.  Yet in comparisons of wastewater from August 2016 to August 2018, the population-weighted average consumption of MDMA around Australia decreased.  Consumption of methylamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, nicotine and alcohol in the same period increased.  Of the 13 substances surveyed, alcohol and nicotine were the most highly consumed.  Consumption of alcohol, nicotine, methylamphetamine, MDMA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis in regional areas exceeded levels recorded in capital cities.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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