NDARC Technical Report No. 72 (1999)


The 1998 IDRS detected a number of drug trends during the past 6-12 months fromanalyses of the IDU survey, the key informant survey, and other indicators.  A brief description of the major drug trends is provided below.

Heroin: The major trends in heroin use were a decrease in price and an increase in the use of heroin, accompanied by continuing high purity and ready availability of heroin. The large increase in the proportion of heroin users injecting cocaine was also noteworthy, and is discussed further under cocaine trends. Increased frequency of heroin use was found in the IDUsurvey, and was associated withmore health-related problems. There was a continuing trend formore opioid-related fatalities, smoking of heroin and heroin use among cannabis users.

Amphetamine: The price, purity and availability of amphetamine had not changed since the 1996 IDRS. Information obtained from key informants and IDU suggested that amphetamine use patterns were stable, and the number of new amphetamine users was declining.

Cocaine: In 1998 there was a large increase in cocaine use, which was not restricted to the IC (where increased cocaine use was found in 1997). Cocaine had become more available, particularly "caps" of cocaine, which were substantially cheaper than in 1997 ($50 vs. $80). Cocaine use consisted nearly entirely of heroin users injecting powder cocaine. There were numerous health consequences reportedly associated with cocaine use, most of which related to the frequency with which cocaine was injected (10-15 times/day).

Cannabis: The potency of cannabis remained high, and cannabis was still considered easy to obtain. Most IDU and key informants indicated that the price of cannabis was the same as in previous years ($400 per ounce); however, there was a trend toward more IDU purchasing cannabis for less than in previous years which was reflected in the median price of cannabis per ounce ($350). There were mixed reports about trends in cannabis use. The IDU survey suggested that use had decreased, whereas key informant reports and other indicators suggested that more young people were using cannabis. The existence of psychological problems among cannabis users was also noted by a number of key informants. A continuing trend from1997 was an increase in heroin use among cannabis users seeking treatment.

Other drugs: The main trend noted with regard to other drug use was that the use of pharmaceutical drugs among IDU remained relatively high. Several other trends regarding steroid and ecstasy use were noted by key informants.

Drug-related issues: Trends in drug-related issues included more health-related problems, particularly increasing rates of opioid-related fatalities, and injection-related problems whichwere associated with the injection of methadone and cocaine. There was a steady increase in the dispensing of injecting equipment from NSEPs, suggesting an increase in the use of injecting equipment in Sydney. The IDU and key informants reported that there had been more police activity recently and a proportion of IDU (35%) believed that police activity had made it harder to obtain drugs. Key informants reported more violent crime (particularly bag snatches) being committed by heroin users, but the IDU survey did not find an increase in self-reported violent crime relative to 1997.

Research implications: The findings from the 1998 IDRS suggest the following areas for further investigation:

  1. a continuation of research into factors influencing the current popularity of heroin use and its availability, and interventions to reduce the harms associated with heroin injection, such as overdose;
  2. an examination of factors influencing transitions to injecting heroin (e.g., smoking heroin among cannabis users);
  3. research into the harms associated with cocaine injection, particularly HIV-HCV risk taking behaviours, and methods of reducing these harms;
  4. research into measures that would reduce methadone injection and associated injection related problems.

Note that some of these issues may have received some research attention to date.



Rebecca McKetin, Shane Darke, Kasia Godycka-Cwirko
Date Commenced
13 Aug 1999
Resource Type
Technical Reports