Evaluating drug law enforcement interventions directed towards methamphetamine in Australia


Despite the impression of increasing methamphetamine problems in Australia, recent use of methamphetamine as measured by the Household Survey (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008) appears to have remained stable since the early 1990s. This project, conducted in 2008 and 2009, is an attempt to conduct a preliminary analysis comparing the costs and impacts of different types of law enforcement. Drug law enforcement against the methamphetamine market takes a number of forms. Australian police operate outside Australian borders, in collaboration with other police forces, to disrupt drug supply within source countries. Border control seeks to detect entry of illegal drugs and precursor chemicals into Australia. Domestic production occurs at clandestine laboratories around Australia, which are detected and destroyed by police. Trafficking and distribution of methamphetamine is another arena for methamphetamine policing. Finally, police can operate at the retail level of the market, arresting local dealers. In addition, precursor chemical regulations attempt to restrict the supply of precursor chemicals. The project aimed to determine the relative cost-to-impact ratios of different law enforcement strategies aimed at reducing methamphetamine production and distribution. This study assessed the difference between four drug law enforcement interventions in terms of the impact (value of seized drugs) against expenditure (government costs). The specific aims of the research were twofold: to provide a rich description of the Australian methamphetamine supply chains in order to inform drug law enforcement interventions; and to conduct an initial economic evaluation comparing law enforcement interventions directed at the methamphetamine market.