Illicit Drug Use Rose During Pandemic: Australian Report

October 28, 2020 Updated: October 28, 2020

Drug use rose at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic across Australia, with ice topping the list of illegal substances consumed.

That’s the major finding of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s latest wastewater monitoring program covering samples taken from one week in both April and June this year.

“During the period monitored by the report, instances of record-high drug consumption have been reported,” the ACIC said on Oct 29.

Nicotine and alcohol remain the highest consumed legal drugs measured by the program, but methamphetamine or ice remains the highest consumed illicit drug.

However since the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a divergence between ice use in capital cities and regional centres, the report found.

Ice use has declined substantially in the cities but continued to increase in the regions.

As well, different areas had their favourite drugs.

In the regions, methamphetamine and heroin consumption was more prevalent while cocaine, cannabis and nicotine use dominated in the cities.

But there was record low regional consumption of fentanyl and record low capital city consumption of oxycodone and alcohol during the period monitored.

The ACIC sampling covered around 56 percent of the population, or more than 13 million people.

Some 55 wastewater treatment plants took part in the testing, which monitored the consumption of 13 substances.

ACIC CEO Michael Phelan said despite the restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic criminal groups were operating on a “business as usual” basis importing, manufacturing and trafficking illicit drugs.

“Results from this report underline the resilience and variety of regional drug markets in Australia,” he said.