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Trends demonstrate link between illicit drug use and crime

Media Release

28 July 2006

Media release from Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator the Hon Chris Ellison

No. E70/06

The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison, today released the findings in the 2005 annual report of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program, which surveys the drug testing of police detainees in seven sites across Australia.

According to the latest research, more than half of all people detained by police in Australia in 2005 tested positive to cannabis and more than one in four detainees tested positive to methylamphetamine. Additionally, over one-third of all detainees attributed at least some of their offending to use of drugs other than alcohol.

"The DUMA program highlights national and site specific trends in illicit drug use and crime by police detainees, providing an evidence base for practitioners and policy making in this area.

"This report clearly reinforces the linkages between illicit drug use and crime; providing further support for the Government's ongoing commitment to the fight against drugs," Senator Ellison said.

The urinalysis results from over 3,000 police detainees in 2005 indicate that:

  • Cannabis continues to be the most commonly detected drug. Fifty-four percent of adult detainees tested positive to cannabis. Among males aged 18 to 20 years, 65 percent tested positive to cannabis, as did 41 percent of males aged 36 or older.
  • Methylamphetamine use has remained at about the same level it was in 2003. Averaged across the sites, 39 percent of females and 25 percent of males tested positive to methylamphetamine.
  • The overall average proportion of detainees testing positive to heroin decreased from 2004, with a marked decrease in Bankstown of 10 percent. Numbers testing positive in Parramatta remained similar to 2004. The overall average proportion remains much lower than pre-shortage levels.
  • Over all sites there was a slight decrease in the proportion of detainees testing positive for benzodiazepines. Compared with the previous year there were slight increases in the percentage testing positive in three sites and decreases in four sites.
  • MDMA (ecstasy) detection remains low, but has increased over the past five years, from 0.5% in 2000 to 2.5% of all detainees in 2005.
  • Cocaine is the least likely of all drugs to be used; only a very small number of detainees testing positive.

    Of those detainees who reported using an illicit drug in the past 12 months, 12 percent were currently in treatment. Types of treatment varied with drug type with over half of those seeking treatment for heroin currently in methadone maintenance while those seeking treatment for amphetamine use were more likely to do so at an outpatient or counselling service.

    Funded under the Australian Government's National Illicit Drug Strategy, DUMA has been in operation since 1999 and quarterly data collection has provided empirical, timely and long term trend data on illicit drug use among people arrested and brought to a police station or watch house.

    "In recognition of the importance of the information collected from DUMA, I recently provided funding to expand DUMA to Melbourne and Darwin, bringing the total number of DUMA sites to nine," Senator Ellison said.

    "The Australian Government is continuing to crack down on the illicit drug trade and to this end a raft of new offences were recently passed in parliament in the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Serious Drug Offences and Other Measures) Act 2005.

    "The Government will continue to fight illicit drugs through education, rehabilitation and law enforcement. Any success in dealing with Australia's drug problem will have a positive impact on levels of crime in our communities," Senator Ellison said.