NDARC Technical Report No. 117 (2001)


Demographics and use patterns
Several trends in the use patterns of IDU detected in 1999 were confirmed in 2000. New recruits to injecting drug use are initiating injecting at an earlier age. IDU aged 25 years or younger initiated injecting, on average, three and a half years earlier than than older subjects (16.5 v 19.9). There was a significant age-related difference in first drug injected, a trend first noted in 2000. The younger group of subjects were significantly more likely to report having first injected heroin (83% v 50%). Overall, these results indicate a shift in initial drug use patterns among younger IDU, who are initiating injection at a younger age, and overwhelmingly commencing injecting careers with heroin rather than amphetamines.

The price of heroin fell in 2000 ($220 gram) compared to 1999 ($240 gram), a pattern also detected in cap prices ($25 v $30). Heroin purity remained high (62%) and stable. All indications are that the number of heroin users in NSW has increased. Heroin users are purchasing larger amounts of the drug, with quarter gram purchase having replaced caps as the most common amount purchased.

The price of amphetamine powder has remained stable. The purity of AFP amphetamine seizures in NSW, however, increased substantially between 1999 (14%) and 2000 (36%). The use of crystal methamphetamine ("ice") increased substantially, with 35% of IDU amphetamine users having recently used the drug in 2000, compared to 7% in 1999. For the first time, the sale of 0.1gm "points" of crystal methamphetamine for $50 was reported. There appears to have been an increase in the number of amphetamine users.

The price of cocaine remained stable in 2000 ($200 gram, $50 a cap). The purity of cocaine remained high (51%) and stable. Since 1998, cocaine has stabilised at high levels of use among IDU. Cocaine use remained strongly associated with injecting heroin use. Cocaine use was associated with substantially more frequent injections than the use of other drugs. Cocaine powder is the predominant form of cocaine in NSW, with availability or use of crack rarely reported.

The price of cannabis declined between 1999 ($350 ounce) and 2000 ($300 ounce). The potency of cannabis remained high, with hydroponically grown cannabis continuing to dominate the market. The age of initiation into cannabis use appears to have declined.

Other drugs
There was a reduction in the injection of methadone syrup in NSW between 1999 and 2000. Similarly, the use of flunitrazepam, a benzodiazepine associated with significant harm among IDU, has remained low since 1998.

Drug-related issues
Recent non-fatal overdose among the IDU samples of the IDRS declined for the second consecutive year (1999:28%, 2000: 19%). In addition, there was a large reduction in the number of suspected heroin overdose deaths referred to the Division of Analytical Laboratories between 1998/99 (491) and 1999/00 (345). All indications are that heroin overdose may be in decline.

The frequency of injecting among IDU has increased since the spread of cocaine use in Sydney from 1998 onwards. Injecting in public places appears to be common among IDU: 50% of IDU reported a public location as their most recent injection location.

The majority of IDU (64%) perceived that there has been an increase in police activity in relation to drugs.



Shane Darke, Libby Topp, Sharlene Kaye
Date Commenced
14 Sep 2001
Resource Type
Technical Reports