Monographs

Monograph no. 22

Benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opioid misuse and their relationship to crime

Tasmanian Report

The purpose of this major research project was to contribute to law enforcement sector understanding of the relationship between benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opioid misuse and crime in three select Australian jurisdictions (Victoria, Tasmania, Northern Territory) where there is evidence of illicit prescription pharmaceutical markets. This report focuses on the Tasmanian aspect of the study. While the primary focus of the study remains on law enforcement interests in relation to licit and illicit benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opioid markets, these are discussed in relation to the broader public health implications of supply reduction efforts in a harm minimisation framework.

Monograph no. 21

Benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opioid misuse and their relationship to crime - An examination of illicit prescription drug markets in Melbourne, Hobart and Darwin

National Overview report

The National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund sought tenders in 2002 for research to enhance law enforcement sector understanding of the structure and functioning of illicit drug markets in Australia - with a particular focus on illicit markets for prescription pharmaceuticals namely benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opioids, their misuse and impact on crime in Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, where there is evidence of illicit prescription pharmaceutical markets. While the primary focus of the study remains on law enforcement interests in relation to licit and illicit benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opioid markets, where warranted these are discussed in relation to the broader public health implications of the range of interventions potentially available as a response to the markets being examined, and their impact. This report presents a review of the literature, an overview of study methodology, key findings and jurisdiction-specific discussion points. The section outlining the key findings is structured according to the main study themes of market characteristics, diversion and links to crime, implications for police and other front line workers, and interventions.

Monograph no. 20

The impact of drugs on road crashes, assaults and other trauma - a prospective trauma toxicology study

The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and patterns of use of specific recreational drugs in all patients with injuries requiring assessment by a trauma team at the Royal Adelaide Hospital over a one-year period. The other specific objectives included determining an estimate of the prevalence and patterns of drug use, and severity of injury, in patients presenting to the Emergency Department of the Royal Adelaide Hospital (patients of lesser severity of injury not requiring trauma service management) following a motor vehicle accident and other trauma. It also aimed to examine the correlation between drug use and mechanism, pattern, and severity of injury in patients presenting to the Royal Adelaide Hospital following a motor vehicle accident, and the epidemiological and demographic patterns associated with drug use and trauma.

Monograph no. 19

Impact of the heroin shortage: Additional research

In early 2001, Australia experienced a sudden and dramatic decrease in heroin availability, concomitant with increases in price and decreases in purity. This phenomenon, known as the 'heroin shortage', was assessed in a comprehensive body of research examining the causes, course and consequence of the shortage). As a result of those findings a number of additional questions were raised, and some findings required further and more detailed analysis, which are addressed in the current report. The aims of the research presented in this report were to: i) assess what impact, if any, the heroin shortage had on initiation to heroin use; ii) examine whether the associated increase in cocaine use led to a) an increase in violent crime and b) an increase in sex work; iii) provide a more detailed and analytical analysis of fatal and non-fatal drug overdose; and iv) provide a closer examination of the impact of law enforcement operations on harm reduction in the context of the heroin shortage.

Monograph no. 18

Developing and implementing a performance measurement framework for drug law enforcement in Australia

This report presents a detailed description of a model process for developing a viable performance measurement framework for drug law enforcement in Australia. It was undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology on behalf of the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund in order to help provide a better accounting for the benefits from the estimated annual $1.4 billion expenditure on drug law enforcement in Australia. In keeping with their overseas counterparts, Australian drug law enforcement agencies have used seizure and arrest data to measure the effectiveness of their work performance for many years. While such measures are simple, visible and well-understood measures of law enforcement effort, they are in many cases ambiguous measures of law enforcement performance. These measures essentially demonstrate the extent to which law enforcement agencies 'engage' in certain types of activities rather than demonstrating the broader 'impacts' of law enforcement work. The performance measurement framework that was developed by this project provides a model framework and development process through which to redress the shortcomings of current drug law enforcement performance measurement practices by including a suite of traditional and more innovative performance measures. This framework has the potential to form the basis of a series of organisationally and jurisdictionally specific performance measurement models, suitably modified to reflect local requirements and available information.

Monograph no. 17

An evaluation of the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests for the detection of impairment associated with cannabis with and without alcohol

Reports indicate that in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, 23.5% of drivers in fatal accidents had consumed drugs other than alcohol, and that 29.1% of drivers had a Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05% or higher. Alcohol has been detected in combination with drugs in almost 10% of cases. Cannabis was most prevalent among drugs other than alcohol detected in specimens (13.5%). The combination of drugs as an influence on road traffic accidents is becoming a growing concern and research has been conducted to identify how these drugs impair performance. In Victoria, Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) have been introduced as means of testing for impairment in drivers who have consumed drugs other than alcohol. The use of SFSTs, although designed for the detection of alcohol-intoxicated drivers (up to 0.08%), has been implemented in programs for the detection of drugs other than alcohol. The present study had several aims: to examine the effects of cannabis and cannabis together with alcohol on driving performance; to examine the effects of cannabis and alcohol on SFSTs performance; to examine the efficiency of SFSTs to predict driving performance associated with the administration of cannabis and alcohol; to examine any differences between the effects of cannabis and alcohol on performance in regular cannabis users and non-regular cannabis users; and to examine any differences between SFSTs ratings by researchers and SFSTs ratings by police officers in order to identify the inter-rater reliability of SFSTs.

Monograph no. 16

Policing, volatile substance misuse, and Indigenous Australians

Volatile substance misuse is the inhalation of substances containing hydrocarbons to induce a state of intoxication, and there a number of acute and chronic health and social problems with which it can be associated. Police have an important role to play in the minimisation of both volatile substance misuse and related harm. This research project, commissioned by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund, was to enhance the understanding of the law enforcement sector concerning the extent and nature of petrol sniffing and other inhalant misuse by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples predominantly in rural and remote, but also urban communities. A qualitative case study approach was taken to the project and 160 interviews were conducted with a total of 195 people including: police officers; Indigenous police liaison officers or community constables; representatives of Indigenous community-controlled organisations; Indigenous community members; representatives of non-Indigenous non-government organisations; and representatives of government agencies.

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