Supply

Social supply of cannabis in Australia

Australian retail markets for most illicit drugs, including cannabis, are based significantly upon friendships and occur in closed settings. This has been described as ‘lounge room’, as opposed to ‘street’, dealing (Nicholas 2008). Similar observations have been made in other countries, and in the UK the term ‘social supply’ was coined to describe this aspect of the drug market where a supplier who is not considered to be a ‘drug dealer proper’ brokers, facilitates or sells drugs, for little or no financial gain, to friends and acquaintances (Hough et al. 2003). In this qualitative and quantitative study, a convenience sample of 200 cannabis users aged between 18 and 30 years were interviewed in Perth (n=80), Melbourne (n=80) and Armidale (NSW; n=40). They were recruited online and through the mainstream street press, flyers, and snowballing. Participants mostly described a closed market characterised by high levels of trust between consumers and suppliers already known to each other at the level of adjacent pairs or small group networks, typically selling in private. Their qualitative accounts of what happened last time they scored or obtained cannabis provided rich descriptions of the process of obtaining cannabis for these young users. Although participants often described their main cannabis supplier as ‘a friend’, roughly three-fifths reported this relationship was a friendship first and two-fifths reported it was a supply relationship first. Overall, 94 percent of the sample had ever supplied cannabis and 78 percent had done so in the past six months. Although most people who engaged in supply understood that their activities would be regarded as such in law, most did not consider themselves to be a dealer. The findings have implications for the policing of social supply drug markets, the public education of participants in the social supply market and how social supply offences are dealt with in law.

Impact of the heroin shortage: Additional research

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

Characteristics and dynamics of cocaine supply and demand in Sydney and Melbourne

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Victoria

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The causes, course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Australia

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Victoria

This report presents the findings of the Victorian component of a national investigation into the heroin shortage which began in early 2001. The aim of the research was to investigate the heroin shortage in Melbourne in some detail with a view to examining the longer term consequences of the heroin shortage in Victoria. Based on analysis of existing data sources as well as a series of key informant interviews, the project documents the heroin shortage in Victoria, including changes in the price, purity and availability of other drugs, and examines resulting changes in drug use among injecting drug users; changes in the health effects of drug use; changes in drug treatment; changes in drug related criminal activity associated with the heroin shortage; changes in health and law enforcement agency operations; and key informant impressions of the heroin shortage. The analysis finds that the heroin shortage was characterised by reports of decreased availability and purity, and increased price, of heroin in Melbourne; however recent data on heroin seizure purity show an increase in purity since the most acute phase of the shortage. The heroin shortage was also associated with a decrease in the reported use of heroin and overall injection frequency reported by samples of injecting drug users in Melbourne; a dramatic decline in the number of heroin related deaths in Victoria; a dramatic decline in the number of non fatal heroin overdoses in Melbourne that was most acute in the Central Business District; a dramatic decline in the number of opioid hospitalisations in Victoria; a decline in the number of courses of treatment for opioids provided by the specialist drug treatment service system; a short term increase in the number of robbery incidents recorded by Victoria Police; and a decline in heroin related incidents recorded in areas of Melbourne containing street based drug markets. The shortage also enabled health and law enforcement agencies to focus on other issues or drugs that were not able to be addressed during the earlier heroin epidemic. The overall extent of injecting drug use apparently changed little in Victoria as a result of the heroin shortage, with injecting drug users shifting their drug use to amphetamines, benzodiazepines, prescribed opioids and cannabis. The findings also suggest the emergence of a market for prescribed pharmaceuticals among injecting drug users that has been sustained in the longer term. Health agencies noted a decline in the general physical health of injecting drug users and in their mental health, primarily associated with the use of stimulant drugs, and an increase in injection related problems and risky injecting practices. Unlike other jurisdictions, there did not appear to be an increase the use of cocaine.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in South Australia

This report presents the findings of the South Australian component of a national investigation into the heroin shortage which began in early 2001. The report finds that within the first few months of the shortage in South Australia, the availability of heroin was severely restricted and what could be sourced was of very low purity. At the present time heroin can be acquired on demand though not as easily as before the shortage, while the purity of street level heroin has slowly increased. The report examines the South Australian impacts of the heroin shortage in terms of changes in the drug market; changes in patterns of drug use; health related impacts; changes in treatment provision for drug based issues; changes in criminal activity; and impacts on health and law enforcement agencies. The analysis finds that following the heroin shortage there was a reduction in the number of fatal and non fatal heroin related overdoses and a reduction in heroin use; greater methamphetamine use; intravenous use of benzodiazepines and other opioids; an increase in mental health difficulties, psychosis and violence due to increased methamphetamine use, as reported by key informants, though this was not reflected in hospital data; no significant increase in treatment seeking for opioids, but a steady increase in the demand for methamphetamine related treatment services. With respect to crime, the report finds no changes in the rates of incidents per month that were probably attributable to the heroin shortage, apart from an initial spike in incidents of robbery without a weapon.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in New South Wales

This report presents the findings of the New South Wales component of a national investigation into the heroin shortage which began in early 2001. While the heroin market in New South Wales appears to have stabilised following the shortage, it has not returned to pre shortage levels and heroin purity remains low. The report examines the New South Wales impacts of the heroin shortage in terms of changes in patterns of drug use and the number of heroin users; changes in injecting drug use; changes in health effects of drug use and drug treatment; changes in drug crime and in crime associated with drugs; impact on law enforcement operations; and changes in health agency operations. The analysis finds that following the heroin shortage in New South Wales there was a decrease in heroin use, a decrease in the distribution of needles and syringes and probably also in the number of injecting drug users; a decrease in fatal and non fatal heroin overdoses; a clear increase in the use of psychostimulants, particularly cocaine; an overall increase in admissions for cocaine overdose and a brief increase in the number of drug induced psychoses; increased treatment episodes for psychostimulant use among younger people; increased levels of crime and aggression for those who continued to use heroin and other drugs; and short term increases in illicit sex work and acquisitive crime, offset by an apparent overall sustained decrease in acquisitive crime.

The causes, course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Australia

In early 2001, Australia experienced an abrupt and substantial reduction in the availability of heroin. This study was commissioned by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund to provide a detailed description of the course of the heroin shortage, a comprehensive analysis of its effects and an examination of the factors contributing to its occurrence. The study is based on a number of data sources, including interviews with regular heroin users and key informants and indicator data such as arrests and overdose deaths, and includes a focused examination of drug markets in three jurisdictions: New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The study finds that the heroin shortage was probably due to a combination of market and law enforcement factors, and that the market now appears to have stabilised, though it has not returned to its pre 2001 levels. The consequences of the heroin shortage included changes in patterns of drug use, including a switch to other drugs; a decrease in acquisitive crime; a decrease in fatal and non fatal overdoses; mixed health effects for different groups of heroin users; changed demands on health and drug treatment services; and an increase in incidents involving violent and aggressive individuals, following greater use of cocaine and methamphetamine. The study also considers the policy implications of the reduction in heroin supply in Australia. The most important implication of the heroin shortage is that it is possible, under some circumstances, for law enforcement to accomplish a substantial reduction in the availability of imported drugs like heroin. However it is uncertain to what degree the reduction achieved in heroin supply in 2000 could be easily reproduced by an act of policy.