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.

Monograph no. 15

The policing implications of cannabis, amphetamine & other illicit drug use in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities

Concerned about the likely impacts of heavy cannabis use in rural and remote communities and recognising the need to equip police with advice on ways to work more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the National Drug Law Enforcement Fund commissioned a 12-month national study. NDLERF tasked the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Criminology, to examine issues associated with the policing of cannabis, amphetamine and other illicit drug use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in rural and remote areas. This report summarises the findings from that study. The overall aims of the project were to: i) enhance the law enforcement sector's understanding of the extent and nature of illicit drug use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; ii) identify good policing practice to help prevent and to minimise the harms resulting from illicit drug use; and iii) produce guidelines on the implementation of good practice.

Monograph no. 14

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

This study set out to examine the characteristics and dynamics of cocaine supply and demand in the two largest Australian cities, Sydney and Melbourne. The main aim of the study was to describe the breadth (in terms of types of users and dealers) and the depth of the market (length of supply chains, overlap with other drug supply). The analysis was based on 165 personal interviews with cocaine users in both cities conducted between October 2004 and January 2005. The data was supplemented with a further 133 questionnaires completed by cocaine users through an Internet-based survey over the same period. Twenty 'for-profit' cocaine dealers were identified within the sample and they provided detailed histories of drug dealing and recent cocaine transactions. From the findings, the report suggests that the large-scale cocaine supply required to meet Australian demand is a trans-national enterprise and so operations at the border and beyond remain the most effective strategy to maintain the current high price and low availability that characterises Australian cocaine supply.

Monograph no. 13

The Sydney methamphetamine market: Patterns of supply, use, personal harms and social consequences

The methamphetamine market in Australia has undergone radical changes since the late 1990s with the emergence of new more pure forms of base and ice. The current research was undertaken to fulfil a need to understand the impact of base and ice on the methamphetamine market, and the health and social consequences associated with these more pure forms of methamphetamine. The specific objectives of the research were to: i) clarify the relationship between the physical forms of methamphetamine and the terminology used to describe these different forms of the drug; ii) estimate the demand for the potent forms of base and ice methamphetamine; iii) document the nature of methamphetamine supply; iv) describe the characteristics of methamphetamine users, methamphetamine use patterns and the social and health problems associated with methamphetamine use; v) examine the relationship between methamphetamine use and criminal activity; vi) describe and estimate the prevalence of psychiatric sequelae associated with methamphetamine (i.e. psychosis and aggressive or violent behaviour); vii) examine the occupational health and safety implications of the above psychiatric sequelae for frontline workers (i.e. police, ambulance officers and emergency department staff); and to viii) determine the utility of the various methodologies employed in the project for investigating the methamphetamine market. The research used a range of different methods to understand the nature of the methamphetamine market in Sydney, including interviews with users, dealers, frontline workers, hospital records and forensic data.

Monograph no. 12

An evaluation of the impact of changes to cannabis law in WA - Summary of Year 1 findings

This is a summary report on the first phase of four of seven sub-studies of a larger project funded to evaluate the impact of changes to cannabis law in Western Australia on cannabis use, the drug market, law enforcement, knowledge and attitudes, and cannabis-related harms. The evaluation investigates: police implementation of the changes; drug market effects; impact on regular cannabis users, population prevalence, knowledge and attitudes regarding cannabis and the law; effect on school children; effect on apprehended cannabis users; and population impact on health problems associated with cannabis use.

Monograph no. 10

Psycho-stimulant use, health and criminal activity among injecting heroin users

This research sought to inform three questions of relevance to illicit drug policy: what effect does the perceived price, purity and availability of heroin have on (a) heroin use and (b) heroin expenditure; what effect does the perceived risk of scoring, perceived hassle associated with scoring and amount of contact with police have on (a) heroin use and (b) heroin expenditure; and what differences are there in terms of adverse health and behavioural outcomes between IDUs who use heroin only and IDUs who use a combination of heroin and psycho-stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine? To address these questions a sample of 296 Sydney IDUs were surveyed. For this sample of IDUs, most of the law enforcement-related variables exerted no significant effect on heroin use and expenditure. Neither the cost of heroin, nor its purity, nor the perceived risk and hassle associated with purchasing heroin were related to either drug expenditure or use. There was a significant relationship between the amount of contact with police and heroin expenditure but it was in the opposite direction to that which would be expected if police contact directly reduces heroin expenditure. IDUs who had more contact with police spent more on heroin each week than IDUs who had relatively infrequent contact with police. The only law enforcement-related variable that appeared to be related to heroin use and expenditure in the manner expected was time to score. IDUs who took longer to score spent significantly less on the drug, and used significantly less of it.

Monograph no. 9

The governance of illicit synthetic drugs

Throughout the lifecycle of an illicit synthetic drug there are a number of individuals or institutions in a position to reduce supply. This project aims to identify concrete examples of law enforcement agencies harnessing external institutions (public, private and non-profit) in furtherance of amphetamine and other illicit synthetic drug control, and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each. The research has focused on strategies adopted by law enforcement agencies overseas, and involved fieldwork in Asia, Europe and the United States. The study discusses international and Australian chemical diversion control initiatives and the challenges of diversion control and supply reduction partnerships, and examines various models adopted by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States to prevent the diversion of necessary chemicals and equipment into the manufacture of illicit synthetic drugs. The study concludes that law enforcement can harness the resources of other organisations in the public and private sectors through a range of mechanisms both mandatory and voluntary, and summarises a number of best practice principles for supply reduction partnerships which have been distilled from the case studies.

Monograph no. 6

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.

Monograph no. 5

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.