EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 
The Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) is a continuing study of people who regularly use ecstasy and is conducted annually in the capital city of every state and territory in Australia. It is designed to identify emerging trends among a sentinel group of drug users, and to inform the health and law enforcement sectors about current drug use consumption patterns, relevant health issues, and other special areas of interest.
 
Characteristics of the 2013 sample (N=88) were largely similar to previous years (i.e. typically male, heterosexual, and engaged in work and/or study), except for one important characteristic. The mean age of the sample was 22 years compared with 26 years in 2012. This significant decrease in mean age may be associated with some important differences between the 2012 and 2013 samples.
 
Consumption trends
 
Current drug use
Ecstasy was the drug of choice for nearly half of the sample. However, only a quarter reported that it was the drug most often used in the previous month; cannabis was the most commonly used, followed by alcohol. Consumption patterns of ecstasy and related drugs remained stable with most using fortnightly.
 
Ecstasy use
Although pills remained the most commonly used form of ecstasy, 67% had used capsules, 36% powder, and 23% crystals. Two pills once a fortnight was the typical pattern of consumption. There was an increase in snorting, and 36% had recently binged on ecstasy. Ecstasy was commonly taken in conjunction with alcohol, and 48% of the sample used other drugs to come-down from ecstasy, generally cannabis.
 
Methamphetamine use
Use of methamphetamines was lower than in 2012, with 41% reporting recent use of speed powder, 9% base, and 21% crystal/ice. All forms were generally used infrequently.
 
Cocaine use
Cocaine use was stable, with 67% of participants having ever used and 40% having used in the previous six months. Recent use was generally occasional (median of two days in past six months).
 
Ketamine use
Ketamine use continued to be low: 27% had used ketamine in their lifetime with 13% having used in the previous six months. Recent use occurred only once or twice.
 
GHB use
GHB was not commonly used, with 13% reporting use in their life time and 6% in the previous six months.
 
Hallucinogen use
Although two in five reported recent LSD use, it was only used on a median of two days. Recent use of mushrooms significantly increased from 15% in 2012 to 38% in 2013 (p<0.05).
 
Cannabis use
Cannabis had been used in the previous six months by 84% of participants. Median days used was 48 corresponding to twice a week.
 
Other drug use
MDA use was stable, with 16% reporting recent use. Almost all participants had recently used alcohol, with median use being two times a week. Tobacco use remained high, with 83% reporting recent use and half of these using daily.
 
Anti-depressant use was low, with 7% reporting illicit use and 9% licit use (i.e. prescribed to them). About one third of participants had recently used illicit benzodiazepines, mainly Xanax© and Valium©, and 9% licit.
 
Only a few participants (8%) had recently used amyl nitrate, and use was occasional. Nitrous oxide was used by 28% on a median of 5 days in the past six months.
 
Heroin use was rare, with only 7% reporting ever having used and 3% reporting use in the previous six months.
 
Recent use of other opiates (e.g. morphine, oxycodone) was also low, with 7% reporting licit use and 11% reporting illicit use.
 
New psychoactive substances
New psychoactive substances (NPS) were used by 38% in the past six months, and the most commonly used were 2CB (15%), DMT (14%), and Kronic (13%). Fifteen per cent of participants reported recently taking a capsule of unknown content.
 
 
Drug market: price, purity, availability and supply
 
Ecstasy market
Overall, the ecstasy market was stable, with median price of an ecstasy tablet being $25 and a capsule $30. Purity was most commonly rated as medium (40%) or fluctuating (30%).
 
Ecstasy was generally reported as being easy or very easy to obtain; although 21% reported that availability had become more difficult. Ecstasy was mostly purchased with other people. Source person was commonly a friend and the transaction undertaken at a friend’s home or own home.
 
Methamphetamine market
The median price of one point of crystal/ice was $100 and speed powder was $65. Base was excluded from analysis because of insufficient responses. There were mixed reports on purity and availability. Half rated the purity of both speed and crystal/ice as high. Crystal/ice was readily available but reports were mixed for speed, with a third of respondents rating availability as difficult. The most common source for obtaining methamphetamines was a friend or known dealer.
 
Cocaine market
Price of cocaine remained stable at $300 per gram, and purity was generally rated as medium. There were inconsistent reports about the availability of cocaine, with just over half reporting it as difficult or very difficult to obtain. Cocaine was commonly sourced from a friend at a friend’s home, and generally consumed at a private venue.
 
Ketamine market
Only two participants responded, preventing meaningful analysis.
 
GHB market
Only one participant responded, preventing meaningful analysis.
 
LSD market
The price of LSD was generally considered to be stable, with a tab having a median price of $22.50. Purity was mostly rated as medium or low; and two-thirds reported availability as easy or very easy.
 
Cannabis market
The cannabis market was considered stable, with hydro costing a median of $25 per gram and bush costing $10 per gram. The strength of both hydro and bush was generally rated as medium or high. Cannabis was commonly sourced from a friend or known dealer at their home.
 
 
Health-related trends associated with ecstasy and related drug use
 
An accidental stimulant-drug overdose was reported by 21% in their lifetime with 9% having overdosed in the previous twelve months. Similarly, 18% reported an accidental depressant drug overdose with 9% having overdosed in the previous twelve months.
 
Most participants (83%) had recently accessed a health service and three quarters of these accessed a GP. Help with drug and/or alcohol use was sought by 13% of participants, mostly from a GP. Only a few participants (6%) were currently in drug treatment.
 
Drugs were reported as contributing to recurrent problems in four areas: increased risky behaviour (36%), difficulty meeting responsibilities (36%), social relationships (20%) and legal problems (9%). The drugs most often implicated were cannabis, alcohol, and ecstasy.
 
Almost two-thirds of participants recorded moderate to very high distress on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10).
 
 
Risk behaviour
 
Fewer participants had ever injected a drug (14% compared with 29% in 2012), and 7% had injected in the previous six months.
 
Three quarters of participants reported having penetrative sex with casual partner/s in the past six months. In the last year, 43% had not had a sexual health check-up; and 10% had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.
 
Of those who drove a vehicle in the last six months, 31% reported driving while over the alcohol limit, and 46% reported driving soon after taking illicit drugs.
 
Most participants (84%) were drinking alcohol at a level that was risky to health.
 
 
Law enforcement-related trends associated with ecstasy and related drug use
 
One third of all participants reported involvement in criminal activity (mainly drug dealing) in the past month, with 9% having been arrested in the previous twelve months.
 
 
Special topics of interest
 
Responses to questions about injecting revealed that 61% of participants had friends who had injected drugs; 28% had been offered drugs to inject in the previous twelve months; and among those who had never injected any drugs (n=76), 13% were seriously considering it.
 
The majority of participants reported very few or no symptoms of ecstasy dependence.

Resources

Author(s)

Sophie Hickey, Fairlie McIlwraith, Rosa Alati
Date Commenced
06 Jun 2014
Resource Type
Drug Trends Jurisdictional Reports