Australian Institute of Criminology

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Executive Summary

Funded by the Commonwealth Government and established in 1999, the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program is Australia’s largest and longest-running ongoing survey of police detainees across Australia. DUMA currently operates at six data collection sites and comprises two core components:

  • a self-report survey detailing a range of criminal justice, demographic, drug use and drug market participation information; and
  • voluntary urinalysis, which serves as an important objective method for corroborating self-reported recent drug use (within 48 hours prior to arrest).

This report is part of the AIC’s biennial series and describes key results from the DUMA data collected between July 2013 and December 2014 at six sites—Brisbane (Queensland); Bankstown, Kings Cross and Surry Hills (New South Wales); Adelaide (South Australia); and East Perth (Western Australia).

In 2013–14, a total of 3,456 adult detainees were interviewed as part of the DUMA program. Of these:

  • 81 percent were male. This percentage is slightly lower than in the 2011–12 data collection period (85%), however the gender ratio is comparable with the ratio reported in other years of the program. It also reflects the gender ratio in the general detainee population;
  • 11 percent of detainees were aged 18 to 20 years, 20 percent were aged 21 to 25 years, 19 percent were aged 26 to 30 years, 17 percent were aged 31 to 35 years and 33 percent were aged 36 years and over. On average, male detainees were 32 years of age and female detainees were 31 years of age;
  • 41 percent of detainees reported having completed year 10 or less of formal education, 20 percent reported having completed year 11 or 12, 12 percent were enrolled in TAFE or university at the time of interview, 21 percent had completed a TAFE qualification and five percent had completed a university qualification. These results are similar to those reported in the 2011–12 data collection period;
  • the majority of detainees (81%) reported residing in stable accommodation (private or social housing), owned or rented by themselves (43%) or someone else (38%), in the 30 days prior to their arrest, while 11 percent of detainees reported having no fixed address; and
  • 23 percent of detainees reported they were working full time and 10 percent part time at the time of interview; 51 percent of detainees reported that they were unemployed and either currently looking (30%) or not looking (21%) for work. From 2011–12 to 2013–14 there was a decrease in the percentage of detainees who reported they were in full-time employment (from 26% in 2011–12) and an increase in the percentage of detainees who reported they were unemployed (from 43% in 2011–12).

In addition to the adult detainees, thirty-five 17 year old detainees were also interviewed at the Brisbane site and six juvenile detainees were interviewed at the Bankstown, Kings Cross and Surry Hills sites. Juvenile and adult detainee data are reported separately.

Contact with the criminal justice system

  • In 2013–14, 47 percent of adult detainees interviewed reported having been charged on at least one separate occasion in the previous 12 months. This represents a slight rise in the recidivism rate compared with the 2011–12 data collection period (44%), but is still lower than the rate recorded in the 2009–10 data collection period (51%).
  • Male detainees (48%) were slightly more likely than females (43%) to report having been charged in the 12 months prior to interview—that is, on an occasion prior to their current detention by police.
  • In 2013–14, 21 percent of adult detainees reported having been released from prison in the 12 months prior to interview. This is higher than in the 2011–12 data collection period (17%).
  • In 2013–14, 20 percent of adult detainees reported being released from prison in the past one to 10 years and four percent reported being released from prison more than 10 years ago.
  • Seventeen percent of adult detainees reported they were on parole, eight percent reported they were on probation and three percent reported they were on a community service order.

Offending

  • Twenty-three percent of all charges recorded against detainees were breaches of orders, typically apprehended violence or similar orders, or conditional release orders.
  • Male detainees most commonly had breach charges recorded against them (23%), while female detainees most commonly had property charges recorded against them (28%).
  • Detainees may have been charged with multiple offences; each detainee was categorised according to the most serious offence (MSO) they were charged with (see Technical Appendix). Twenty-nine percent of detainees across both sexes combined had an MSO that was violent.
  • Male detainees most commonly had an MSO that was violent (30%), while female detainees most commonly had an MSO related to a breach (30%).

Drug and alcohol indicators

Drug use based on urinalysis

A unique feature of the DUMA program is its use of urinalysis to provide an objective estimate of recent (within the previous 48 hours) drug use. The provision of a urine sample is both voluntary and confidential. Urine was collected biannually during the 2013–14 collection period (see Technical Appendix for details of the urine collection schedule).

Urine provision compliance rates are calculated as a percentage of adult detainees who provided a urine sample when a sample was requested. In 2013–14, there was a 71 percent urine provision compliance rate. In 2014, the rate of urine provision compliance was six percentage points higher than in 2013 (74% cf 68%). The collection rate achieved in the 2013–14 period is comparable to previous years. By drug type, key findings from the 2013–14 urinalysis are as follows.

Benzodiazepines

  • Twenty-four percent of adult detainees who provided a urine sample tested positive to benzodiazepines. This was only slightly higher than the rate recorded in most collection periods. Since 1999, benzodiazepine test positive rates have ranged between 21 and 23 percent, with the exception of 2003, when benzodiazepine use rose to 26 percent. Thirty-one percent of adult female detainees and 22 percent of adult male detainees tested positive to benzodiazepines.

Cannabis

  • Forty-six percent of adult detainees tested positive to cannabis. Cannabis continues to be the most commonly detected drug among police detainees. There has been a gradual decline in cannabis use since its peak in 1999, when 61 percent of detainees tested positive.
  • Forty-six percent of male detainees tested positive to cannabis, compared with 42 percent of female detainees. Cannabis use was most prevalent among detainees 18 to 20 years of age (62%), followed by those 21 to 25 years of age (54%),
    26 to 30 years of age (46%), and 31 to 35 years of age (40%); the lowest rate of use was among detainees 36 years of age or older (38%).

Cocaine

  • Two percent of male and female adult detainees tested positive to cocaine. Consistent with previous years, cocaine remains one of the least frequently detected drugs among police detainees.

Heroin

  • Eight percent of adult detainees tested positive to heroin.
  • Eleven percent of female detainees and seven percent of male detainees tested positive to heroin.
  • Between 2011–12 and 2013–14, national test positive rates to heroin decreased by two percentage points. Since the 2000–01 heroin shortage, heroin use indicators among detainees continue to remain at historical lows.

Amphetamines

  • Thirty-seven percent of adult detainees tested positive to amphetamines; this constitutes an increase of 13 percentage points since 2011–12 (24%). This is the highest recorded rate of amphetamine use in DUMA’s history, with the previous peak being 35 percent in both 2003 and 2004.
  • Rates of amphetamine use varied between data collection sites, ranging from a high of 61 percent in Kings Cross (n=42), followed by Surry Hills (43%; n=18), East Perth (39%; n=176), Brisbane (38%; n=265), Adelaide (27%; n=66) and Bankstown (26%; n=9)—noting that direct comparison of rates across sites should be undertaken with caution as the number of urine samples collected at each site varies.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

  • One percent of detainees tested positive to MDMA. Since DUMA commenced in 1999, the number of detainees testing positive to MDMA has remained low—under three percent.

Other opiates

  • Five percent of adult detainees tested positive to methadone and nine percent tested positive to buprenorphine.
  • Ten percent of female detainees and four percent of male detainees tested positive to methadone. Sixteen percent of female detainees and four percent of male detainees tested positive to buprenorphine.
  • Six percent of adult detainees tested positive to an opiate metabolite not identified as heroin, buprenorphine or methadone; this suggests the use of substances such as morphine and codeine.

Self-reported alcohol use

  • Forty-one percent of adult police detainees reported having drunk alcohol in the 48 hours prior to their arrest.
  • Male detainees were more likely than female detainees (42% cf 34%) to report having been drinking in the 48 hours prior to their arrest.
  • The average quantity of alcohol detainees reported consuming on the last occasion of drinking was 19 standard drinks, although it was as high as 31 standard drinks for the sub-group of detainees who reported consuming a mix of beer, wine or spirits on the last occasion.
  • Male detainees reported consuming, on average, a similar amount of alcohol per hour on the last occasion of drinking as female detainees (approximately 4 standard drinks), but a greater total number of drinks on their last occasion of drinking (20 standard drinks cf 17 standard drinks).
  • From 2011–12 to 2013–14, the average quantity of alcohol consumed on the last occasion of drinking decreased (22 cf 19 standard drinks).

Relationship between drug use and offending

Most serious offence (MSO) and drug use

  • Eighty-one percent of adult detainees whose MSOs was property, tested positive to at least one drug, with amphetamines being the most common (48%).
  • Sixty-seven percent of adult detainees whose MSOs were violent tested positive for at least one drug, with cannabis being the most common (44%) and amphetamines the second most common (31%).
  • Detainees whose MSO was drug were most likely to test positive to amphetamines (50%), followed by detainees whose MSO was:
    • property (48%);
    • breach (38%);
    • violent (31%);
    • traffic (30%);
    • disorder (25%); and
    • DUI (14%).
  • Detainees whose MSO was property were most likely to test positive to opiates (29%), followed by detainees whose MSO was:
    • drug (23%);
    • breach (23%);
    • disorder (15%);
    • traffic (14%);
    • violent (13%); and
    • DUI (9%).
  • Detainees whose MSO was property were more likely to test positive for benzodiazepines (31%) than detainees whose MSOs fell into other categories.

Crime attributed to drug use

The DUMA survey includes specific questions that quantify the relationship reported by detainees between substance use (drugs and/or alcohol) and the offences for which they were in custody at the time of interview.

  • Forty-five percent of detainees confirmed that their substance use (drugs and/or alcohol) contributed to their current detention by police; 23 percent reported that alcohol had contributed and 25 percent reported that other drugs (ie cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA) had contributed.
  • Detainees whose MSO was violent, DUI or disorder were more likely to identify alcohol than other drugs as a contributing factor to their current police detention. Detainees whose MSO was property, drug, traffic or breach were more likely to identify drugs other than alcohol as a contributing factor to their current police detention.

New South Wales juvenile detainees

Where possible, and with the consent of a primary caregiver as well as the consent of the detainee, juvenile detainees under the age of 18 years are interviewed in New South Wales as part of the DUMA program.

  • In 2013–14, six juvenile detainees were interviewed across the three Sydney sites—three at Bankstown, two at Surry Hills and one at Kings Cross.
  • The majority of juvenile detainees were male (83%) and juvenile detainees were on average 15 years of age.
  • Fewer juveniles were interviewed in 2013–14 compared with previous years. This may be due in part to data collection occurring at Kings Cross, where fewer juveniles tend to be processed. It also reflects the lower response rate for juveniles in 2013–14 compared with 2011–12 (17% cf 43% at Bankstown; 13% cf 53% at Kings Cross).
  • Of the five detainees who were eligible, three (60%) provided a urine sample.
  • None of the three detainees who provided a urine sample tested positive for a drug.

Brisbane 17 year old detainees

Seventeen year olds detained by police in Queensland are regarded as adults by the Queensland justice system and are therefore eligible for interview by DUMA personnel at the Brisbane site. In this report, ‘adult detainee’ refers only to a detainee who is 18 years of age or older, and the findings for this group of detainees have been reported separately to ensure national consistency in the adult detainee sample.

  • In 2013–14, thirty-five 17 year old detainees were interviewed at the Brisbane site.
  • The majority of these detainees were male (83%).
  • Of the 24 detainees who were eligible, 22 (92%) provided a urine sample.
  • Eighty-six percent of those who provided a urine sample tested positive for at least one drug type; test positive rates were highest for cannabis (77%), followed by amphetamines (45%).

Addenda

Each year specific issues of interest are addressed via a quarterly survey addendum. Addenda are developed in consultation with both Commonwealth and state stakeholders, and collect information on emerging issues of policy relevance.

  • Drug substitution—During the third quarter of 2013, the addenda examined the impact of a reduction in availability of a particular drug on detainees’ use of that drug, alcohol and other illicit drugs. In the case of both cannabis and methamphetamine, the majority of detainees reported reduced consumption or abstention during periods of reduced supply. The majority also reported that they did not increase consumption of alcohol or illicit drugs during these periods. These findings suggest that a reduction in the supply of cannabis or methamphetamine may result in reductions in harm among cannabis and methamphetamine users. However, a substantial proportion of detainees reported never having experienced a period of reduced supply, indicating that cannabis and methamphetamine remain readily available across Australia and that reductions in supply may be temporary and localised. For further detail, see Findings from the DUMA program: Impact of reduced cannabis supply on consumption of illicit drugs and alcohol (Goldsmid 2015) and Findings from the DUMA program: Impact of reduced methamphetamine supply on consumption of illicit drugs and alcohol (Coghlan & Goldsmid 2015).
  • Internet access and frequency and nature of use—An investigation into the use of the internet by police detainees in the first quarter of 2014 found that the majority of police detainees had regular and private access to the internet. Almost one-third of detainees who had access to the internet (n=119) reported sourcing information about illicit drugs online. However, only five percent (n=8) of detainees who had heard of drugs being sold online reported purchasing illicit drugs online, and only three percent (n=12) of all detainees reported they might consider purchasing drugs online in the future. Although the nature of the online searches cannot be determined from the data, it may be that detainees were searching for information related to use, side effects, or help-seeking. It is possible that the lack of engagement in the online drug market reflects a general lack of engagement with the internet for purchasing activities, with 59 percent (n=223) of detainees reporting never having engaged in online shopping. Alternatively, with high levels of dependence in the detainee population, the immediacy of the physical drug market may drive this preference. For further detail, see Findings from the DUMA program: Internet access, frequency and nature of use among police detainees (Goldsmid & Patterson, 2015).
  • Readiness to change drug use and help-seeking intentions—An investigation into detainee readiness to change drug use and help-seeking intentions for drug misuse was conducted in the second quarter of 2014. This examination revealed that detainees most in need of drug treatment were also those most ready to change their drug use behaviour. Based on participants’ intentions to seek help, sources of help involving face-to-face interactions received the highest level of endorsement. Face-to-face illicit drug interventions administered by medical professionals in the custodial setting may foster a high level of engagement by police detainees suffering from drug abuse. For further detail, please see Readiness to change drug use and help-seeking intentions of police detainees: Findings from the DUMA program (Gannoni & Goldsmid forthcoming).
  • Drink and drug driving—An examination of detainees’ opinions on the impact of various substances on their driving ability, and their perceptions of how likely it was that police would test them while driving for the same substances, was conducted in the third quarter of 2014. There was evidence that detainees do perceive a risk related to drink and drug driving, with most users reporting impaired driving when under the influence and a risk of detection by police. Marked variations between users and between substances were noted. The strength of the perception of risk is likely to determine the resultant deterrence from drink and drug driving. For further detail, see Findings from the DUMA program: Drink and drug driving among police detainees (Goldsmid, Coghlan & Patterson 2015).
  • Managing intoxicated offenders: Best practice in responding to individuals affected by drugs and alcohol (NDLERF-funded)—In the third and fourth quarters of 2014, addenda were administered in support of this project. In the third quarter, the addendum compared alcohol and illicit drug recent use profiles for offenders identified by police as being either intoxicated or not intoxicated. Analysis revealed that police were better than chance at detecting alcohol consumption, but no better than chance at detecting illicit drug use. In the fourth quarter, the addendum examined predictors of police assessments of intoxication; namely, whether detainee self-reported levels of intoxication, sedation, stimulation, hostility or psychological distress predicted police assessments of intoxication. Logistic regression analysis revealed that the higher the detainees’ self-reported level of stimulation or hostility, the more likely police were to identify them as intoxicated. Stimulation and hostility are side effects associated with the consumption of alcohol and stimulants such as methamphetamine. These findings suggest that police are more likely to correctly identify a detainee as being intoxicated if the detainee has consumed alcohol or a stimulant. For further detail, including the methodological limitations of this study, see Managing intoxicated offenders: Best practice in responding to individuals affected by drugs and alcohol (Fuller, Goldsmid & Brown forthcoming).

Featured results

  • The influence of cannabis dependency and use on criminal offending—A study conducted using 2013 DUMA data examined the association between cannabis use and offending by comparing frequency of use and dependence on cannabis for detainees who reported that cannabis had contributed to their offending with that of cannabis-using detainees who reported it had not. Of detainees who reported using cannabis in the 30 days prior to their arrest (n=571), 18 percent (n=100) reported they thought cannabis contributed ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ to the events leading up to their current police detention. Detainees who attributed their criminal offending to cannabis use reported a higher number of days of use in the 30 days prior to their detention than those who did not attribute offending to cannabis use (22 days cf 15 days). Users who attributed offending to cannabis use also reported higher frequencies of use per day than detainees who did not report cannabis as a contributing factor in their offence (4 times per day cf 3 times per day). In addition, 26 percent of dependent cannabis users identified cannabis use as a contributing factor, compared with eight percent of non-dependent cannabis users. For further detail, see Findings from the DUMA program: The influence of cannabis dependency and use on criminal offending, through the eyes of police detainees (Goldsmid 2015).
  • South Hedland—In an attempt to better understand a regional offending population and their alcohol and drug use, the DUMA program was utilised to collect data in the Pilbara region of WA via a one-off data collection at South Hedland in the third quarter of 2013. In South Hedland, 51 police detainees were interviewed and compared with a sample of 209 detainees from the regular DUMA site of East Perth. The South Hedland sample were significantly more likely than the East Perth sample to have consumed alcohol in the past 48 hours, and to consume it more frequently and at higher levels. South Hedland detainees were significantly less likely than East Perth detainees to have used both cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants. South Hedland detainees were also significantly less likely than East Perth detainees to report feeling dependent on cannabis or amphetamine-type stimulants. South Hedland detainees were more likely than East Perth detainees to attribute their current police detention to alcohol rather than illicit drug use. For further detail, see Drug Use Monitoring in Australia: An expansion into the Pilbara (Gately, Ellis & Morris forthcoming).

Summary

  • Overall, in 2013–14 the most notable trend in illicit drug use within the Australian detainee sample was a 13 percent increase in detainees testing positive to amphetamines. This was mainly due to an 11 percentage point increase in detainees testing positive to methamphetamine.
  • There was also a four percentage point increase in detainees testing positive to at least one drug type.
  • A slight decrease in prevalence of cannabis use was observed, continuing the downward trend observed since 1999. Despite its use decreasing, cannabis remains the most commonly detected illicit drug.
  • The prevalence of use of benzodiazepines, heroin, MDMA and cocaine remained relatively stable from 2011–12 to 2013–14.