Australian Institute of Criminology

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Drug Use Monitoring in Australia 2006

Media Release

18 June 2007

Fact sheet accompanying media release

Monitoring illicit drug use amongst alleged offenders over time tells us important information about national trends in illicit drug use, how much offending may be linked to alcohol and drug dependency or intoxication, and of changes in local markets including how drugs are being obtained.

Use of illicit drugs

The percentage of adult male detainees who tested positive and what type:

  • 55% to cannabis
  • 23% to methylamphetamine
  • 20% to benzodiazepines
  • 8% to heroin
  • 2% to MDMA (ecstasy)
  • 2% to cocaine.

Source of illicit drugs

In the majority of cases alleged offenders obtained their illicit drugs from a regular source and the dealer was usually contacted first by mobile phone. With cannabis, the drug was most likely to be bought within the detainee's own suburb whilst cocaine, ecstasy, methylamphetamine and heroin are most likely bought outside the detainee's own suburb. Differences were found in relation to the place of purchase, with over half of the detainees purchasing heroin on the street, whereas cannabis and methylamphetamine were more likely to be purchased from a house or flat.

Crystal methylamphetamine

Considerable media attention has recently focused on the potential harms of crystal methylamphetamine ('ice'). Additional questions asked in 2006 about amphetamines revealed that the majority of detainees who were amphetamines users in the past year preferred, and had usually taken, crystal methylamphetamine. Just over two out of five detainees reported little change in the availability of their preferred form of amphetamine or speed in the past 12 months.

Intravenous use

In 2006 over 88 percent of those who reported they had used heroin in the past 12 months said they had used the drug intravenously, whilst 70 percent of those who had used methylamphetamine in the past 12 months said they had done so intravenously. This means that a total of 1,308 detainees injected methylamphetamine at least once in the previous year, whilst 535 had injected heroin at least once.


Of those adult detainees who self-reported using an illicit drug in the past 12 months, 14 percent were currently in treatment. Treatment type varied with drug type, with over half of those seeking treatment for heroin currently in methadone maintenance, while those seeking treatment for methylamphetamine use were more likely to do so at an outpatient or counselling service.

Socio-demographic characteristics

Most alleged offenders who were interviewed were male (84%) and two out of five were aged between 21 and 30 years (40%). Almost half have less than 10 years of formal education and almost two-thirds obtained money through government benefits.

Prior contact with the criminal justice system

Over half of those interviewed have had prior contact with the criminal justice system, and 18 percent had been in prison during the past 12 months.


An equal proportion of alleged offenders were being charged with a violent offence (26%) or a property offence (26%). Only a small percentage were charged with a drug offence (7%) with breaches of orders (16%) and traffic offences (9%) more common.