This study examines whether seizures of heroin, cocaine or amphetamine-type substances (ATS) or supplier arrests for heroin, cocaine or ATS trafficking affect emergency department admissions related to, or arrests for, use and possession of these drugs. Two strategies were employed to answer the question. The first involved a time series analysis of the relationship between seizures, supplier arrests, emergency department admissions and use/possess arrests. The second involved an analysis of three specific operations identified by the NSW Crime Commission as having had the potential to affect the market for cocaine. The associations between supply reduction variables and use and harm measures for cocaine and ATS were all either not significant or positive. These findings suggest that increases in cocaine or ATS seizures or ATS supplier arrests are signals of increased (rather than reduced) supply. The three significant operations dealing with cocaine listed by the NSW Crime Commission did bring an end to the upward trend in the frequency of arrests for use and possession of cocaine. Thus, very large-scale supply control operations do sometimes reduce the availability of illicit drugs.
The three pillars of Australia’s drug policy are: supply reduction; demand reduction; and harm reduction. Supply reduction policy focuses on reducing the supply, or increasing the cost of, illegal drugs through such actions as crop eradication, drug seizures, arresting drug importers and distributors etc. While there is much evidence to support the effectiveness of demand and harm reduction measures, there is less evidence supporting the effectiveness of supply reduction policy.
The purpose of this study was to improve on, and further contribute to this area of knowledge and examine the impact of seizures and supplier arrest on the use and associated harms of three drugs: heroin, cocaine, and amphetamine type substances (ATS).
It is widely recognised that data from the Emergency Department is a better measure of violence in the community than police statistics. But other data sources should also be used where possible. Cairns is a large regional centre in far north Queensland. Around one-quarter of injuries due to violence requiring treatment in the ED at Cairns Base Hospital can be linked with the Cairns late night entertainment precinct, a tiny area of less than one square kilometre in the inner city. Alcohol is involved in the overwhelming majority of injuries due to violence in Cairns generally. In this study, a surveillance system for incidents of person-to-person violence was developed and tried in the Cairns late night entertainment precinct.