National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program

The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring

Program commenced in August 2016 and provides leading-edge, coordinated national research and intelligence on illicit drugs and licit drugs that can be abused, with a specific focus on methylamphetamine and other high-risk substances.

14th Report released 28 October 2021

Latest wastewater report finds Australia has the second highest methylamphetamine consumption in world comparison

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) recently released the 14th report of its National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (the Program). This report presents data on Australia’s drug consumption for 12 substances. The April 2021 collection covered around 56 per cent of Australia’s population—about 13 million Australians.

This reporting period again demonstrated varying trends in drug consumption, both nationally and within our states and territories. Of the drugs measured by the Program with available dose data, alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed drugs in Australia, with methylamphetamine commonly known as “Ice”, the most consumed illicit drug. This report showed signs of recovery in the methylamphetamine market, which remains Australia’s highest risk drug market by some margin.

ACIC CEO Mr Michael Phelan APM said that the methylamphetamine market is a very resilient market because consumption is widespread and strong in both the capital cities and regional locations. Methylamphetamine is a wicked problem because serious organised crime (SOC) groups both import the finished product and precursor chemicals and domestically manufacture methylamphetamine. Wastewater analysis provides a timely indication of both the extent of supply by serious and organised crime (SOC) groups and also locations where they have a footprint. Sadly, the report shows that SOC groups will always find a way to supply illicit drug markets, Mr Phelan said.

Other findings this reporting period are that fentanyl and oxycodone consumption decreased to the lowest levels recorded by the Program, heroin consumption continued to decline and cocaine also decreased. In April 2021, capital city MDMA consumption exceeded regional consumption for the first time since August 2017 but average consumption of this drug has decreased from record

highs in December 2019. This pre-dated the COVID period, so we believe that the decrease is due to a combination of decreasing imports to Australia by SOC groups and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, which saw entertainment venues closed and festivals cancelled. Heroin, cocaine and MDMA are wholly or largely supplied via importations by SOC groups so decreases in consumption are due to a combination of supply-side interventions and temporary reductions in consumption.

“There is no doubt that wastewater analysis is important to everyday Australians and benefits them directly. The ACIC and the Australian Government recognises the valuable contribution of wastewater analysis to informing decision making on a range of drug and public health issues.”

The Program means that response agencies, stakeholders and interested members of the community can develop an informed understanding of trends in drug consumption and allows the progress of demand, supply and harm reduction strategies to be monitored.