NDARC Technical Report No. 88 (2000)


The 1999 IDRS detected several drug trends during the past 6 to 12 months (from around mid 1999) provided by analyses of the IDU survey, the key informant survey and other secondary indicators. A brief description of major drug trends is discussed below.

Heroin: Heroin appears to be highly available, of high purity, and had a price comparable with 1998. The use of heroin appears to have increased, particularly among young people. Rock heroin, a highly pure form of heroin, has increased in availability. There also appears to be an increase in the number of people selling heroin, particularly (young) Vietnamese people. In general, the heroin market appears to have become more open, strategic and more aggressive.

Amphetamine: Amphetamine appears to be highly available, and was comparable in price with 1998. The purity appears to be low, although there are increasing reports of more pure forms of amphetamine being available, particularly pseudoephedrine-based amphetamine and methamphetamine in crystal form. The use of amphetamine appears to have increased among young people. Amphetamine use among IDU appears to have decreased, but those who were using in 1999 appear to be doing so more frequently.

Cannabis: Cannabis is highly available, and was comparable in price with 1998, although price is dependent on growing season, availability, potency, and the dealer-buyer relationship. The purity appears to be high according to IDU and key informants, with increasing reports of more potent hydroponically-grown cultivars being available. However these reports remain unverified by forensic laboratory testing. The use of cannabis appears to be relatively stable.

Cocaine: Cocaine appears to have fluctuated in availability during 1999, with some users saying it was easy to obtain, and others saying it was difficult. Cocaine was comparable in price with 1998, and was high in purity. However, the use of cocaine appears to have decreased compared with 1998, and only 6% of IDU gave information on cocaine in 1999 compared with around one third of IDU in 1998. Moreover, no key informants selected cocaine as the main drug of discussion in 1999, compared with two (6%) in 1998. It appears that cocaine use has decreased, or it may be that it has decreased, or become more secretive, in this particular population of drug users.

Other drugs: The main trend observed with regards to other drug use was the continued high level use of benzodiazepines and the apparent decrease in 'other opiate' use among IDU. Methadone injection continues to be a trend, while illicit steroid use among IDU was minimal in 1999.

Drug related issues: Trends in drug-related issues included the high prevalence of injection related problems among IDU, although it appears that unsafe needle use is decreasing among IDU. The number of overdoses and ambulance callouts has also increased. Crime is high and stable, although there are reports of more frequent petty theft. Police are more visibly present, and the activities of middle and low-level dealers have been disrupted more frequently since the inception of Operation Mantle.

Research and policy implications: The findings from the 1999 IDRS have policy and research implications that are outlined below. It is worth noting that some of these issues may have already received attention to date.

  • Implementation of education programs aimed specifically at people of school age concerning drug use and associated consequences of use.
  • Implementation of interventions to reduce the frequency and likelihood of heroin overdose, for example, It's rarely just the 'h' intervention strategy as implemented in 1996 (see McGregor et al. 1999).
  • Characterisation and potency testing of cannabis cultivars by AFDL or other laboratory analysis
  • 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 injection-related health problems.
  • Research into the demographic profile, patterns of heroin use, and heroin marketing among the Vietnamese community.
  • Research into factors that would decrease the harms associated with intravenous methadone use.
  • Determination of the relative availability of rock heroin (compared with the powder form) and consequences of use associated with this more potent form of heroin.
  • Research into changes in the availability of heroin in Adelaide, including factors affecting this market.
  • Research into factors associated with transition from amphetamine to heroin use, and development of early intervention strategies for susceptible individuals.
  • Research into the chemical analysis of street amphetamine and designer drug formulations.
  • Determination of the demographic profile of cocaine users in South Australia.



Rachel Humeniuk
Date Commenced
19 May 2000
Resource Type
Technical Reports