About

New sewage analysis shows how Aussies use drugs

Share
Australians are using more cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA compared to last year, but are drinking less alcohol overall, according to new analysis of sewage for drugs.
sewage analysis drugs

Australians are using more cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA compared to last year, but are drinking less alcohol overall, according to new analysis of sewage for drugs.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has been drug testing sewage since 2016 and publishes regular findings on drug trends. The latest report is based on wastewater samples collected in August and October 2023.

Here’s what it found.

Alcohol

National rates of alcohol consumption have continued to decline in recent years.

On average, consumption of alcohol was lower in 2023 than in 2016. It is now at a record low in regional Australia.

However, alcohol is still the most widely consumed substance. Paramedics respond to thousands more calls relating to alcohol intoxication than any other drug.

Methamphetamine

Wastewater samples from 2023 found methamphetamine (known in its crystal form as ‘ice’) use increased by 17% compared to 2022.

Western Australia and Tasmania reported the biggest spikes.

The highest levels of methamphetamine were detected in 2018-19.

Cocaine

Overall, there was a nearly 20% increase in cocaine use across Australia in 2023.

Tasmania was the only state or territory that saw a decline in cocaine use.

Regional Australia saw record high cocaine levels. However, cocaine use remained highest in the cities.

Other drugs

Cannabis is the most consumed illicit drug in Australia. The NT saw a decrease of 25% in the reporting period, while WA saw a 17% increase.

MDMA consumption increased by 33% across Australia, but is still low compared to pre-COVID-19 rates.

Heroin was among the only illicit drugs that saw a decrease (7%) in use nationally. However, an increase was detected in the ACT.

Cost

The ACIC also calculated the cost of drugs by measuring consumption levels against estimated street values.

The report found methamphetamine cost Australians the most in 2023, at $10.5 billion. The next highest was cocaine at $1.3 billion.

The total cost of the five most popular drugs (MDMA, heroin, cannabis, methamphetamine and cocaine) was $12.7 billion, the largest yearly amount ever recorded.

Become smarter in three minutes

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed, for free.

Be the smart friend in your group chat

Join thousands of young Aussies and get our 5 min daily newsletter on what matters in your world.

It’s easy. It’s trustworthy. It’s free.