30 November 2000

The number of Brisbane teenagers and young adults injecting amphetamines has increased over the past year with local manufacturers producing some of the purest methamphetamine in Australia, according to a report by University of Queensland researchers.

The Queensland component of the Year 2000 Illicit Drugs Reporting System (IDRS) was conducted by the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC) in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at The University of Queensland.

It is part of the nationwide IDRS coordinated by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

The Queensland results are to be unveiled at the IRDS conference at the Banquet Hall in the Masonic Centre, Sydney, on Thursday, November 30, at 2pm by Project Coordinator Ross McAllister.

"User reports from Brisbane indicate amphetamines are now most likely to be the first drug ever injected and the age at which users first inject was reported to be decreasing," Mr McAllister said.

"IDRS data also indicates that amphetamines had decreased in price over the past year. Users reported that amphetamines were easy to obtain with methamphetamine the most common form of amphetamine used in Brisbane. It seems both the number of local manufacturers and the purity of the drug had increased dramatically in Brisbane. Drug treatment professionals said that the prevalence and severity of amphetamine-induced psychosis had also increased in Brisbane over the past year."

The aim of the IDRS is to analyse and report current trends in the price, purity, availability, and use of illicit substances including heroin, amphetamine, cocaine, cannabis, and "designer drugs" such as MDMA.

Trends were identified on the basis of information collected during interviews with drug-users, drug treatment professionals, and law enforcement personnel.

These reports were supplemented by data from police seizures and survey data recorded at Needle Availability and Support Program (NASP) Outlets. As in other states and territories, the QADREC study focused upon trends in the use of illicit substances in the major capital city (Brisbane).

Other findings of the Queensland report include:

o Users and drug treatment professionals reported that heroin was relatively easy to obtain in Brisbane, and that the price of heroin had decreased slightly over the past year. Heroin currently cost approximately $350-$400 per gram in Brisbane, reports said. Injection of benzodiazepines was reported to be increasing among heroin users despite the potentially catastrophic health-related consequences. Benzodiazepines were reported to be relatively easy to obtain in reasonably large quantities through the process of "doctor-shopping";

o Users report that methamphetamine, which occurs in a variety of forms, costs between $20 and $50 per "point" (0.1 grams) or approximately $200 per gram. Queensland IDRS (2000) findings suggest that the price of methamphetamine has decreased appreciably over the past year in Brisbane;

o The purity of methamphetamine seizures in 1999-2000 varied between 0.1 percent and 82 percent, averaging 28.4 percent. With the exception of Western Australia (where only 62 seizures were analysed compared to 1816 seizures analysed in Queensland), the average purity of methamphetamine seizures in Queensland during 1999-2000 was the highest of any state or territory in Australia;

o Informants reported that hydroponically grown cannabis sold for approximately $300-$400 per ounce (28 grams) in Brisbane. Cannabis heads had been used by 99 percent of all cannabis users in the six months preceding the survey, suggesting a high availability of this potent form of the substance. By comparison, cannabis leaf had been used by only 56 percent of cannabis users. Sixty-two percent of cannabis users rated the potency of cannabis in Brisbane as high; and

o Users and informants reported that a gram of cocaine currently cost between $200-$400 in Brisbane, although the most commonly reported purchase price for that quantity was $200. Only two percent of injecting drug users who were surveyed rated cocaine as their drug of choice, and most indicated that the substance was relatively difficult to obtain.

For more information, contact Ross McAllister or QADREC Acting Director Lesley Dawes (mobile 0411 043 490 or 02 9282 0987 at the Southern Cross Hotel on November 29 and 30 or telephone 07 3365 5189 after 30 November) or Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2339).