Most Popular Drugs In Australia: We Consumed Over 14 Tonnes Of Drugs In 2022

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Most Popular Drugs In Australia: We Consumed Over 14 Tonnes Of Drugs In 2022

Aussies love a bender – who knew? Today, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has once again gifted us with juicy details on the nation’s insatiable thirst for illicit substances. According to their latest National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report, parties continue to rage and communities continue to suffer at the hands of organised crime fuelled by illegal drugs.

Rightly or wrongly, Aussies are renowned around the world for their fun-loving attitudes and outgoing personalities. They’re also known for loving a party, along with the occasional party favour… As an expat Brit, I can safely say that this stereotype stands strong to this day.

However, there’s a darker side to Australia’s drug use that cannot and should not be ignored. That’s where ACIC’s latest report comes into play. Marking the sixth year in a well-established program, the report is littered with fascinating insights that amount to some good news and some bad.

Apparently, wastewater analysis is the new black when it comes to gathering intelligence on drug markets and serious organised criminal activity. In their report, ACIC monitored fifty-eight wastewater sites, covering approximately 57% of the Australian population. The results are in…

In short: Australians take a lot of illicit drugs

Wastewater sites such as these hold all your substance-related secrets… Image: Ashley Roach

In the twelve months up to August 2022, Aussies consumed a whopping 14 tonnes of methylamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) with an estimated street value of $10 billion. That’s enough to make even the most enterprising drug lord blush.

The findings show meth continues to be the most consumed illicit drug in Australia by some margin, followed by cocaine in second, then MDMA and then heroin.⁠

National consumption of meth, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine decreased between April and August 2022 in both capital cities and regional sites, but consumption of all other drugs monitored by the program increased, including heroin.

While it was also nice to see a 10% reduction in overall consumption from the previous year, Matt Rippon, the Acting CEO of ACIC, reminds us that this amount of drug use is concerning not only in terms of the economic cost but also the cost to the community:

“This is a concerning amount, both in terms of economic cost – the actual expenditure on drugs – and the cost to the community – through violence, road trauma, property crime, illness, injury and deaths associated with illicit drug use.”

Matt Rippon, Acting CEO, ACIC
The Australian Border Force has tightened its grip on the drug trade, especially cocaine. Image: CNN

Notably, there’s been a record low national consumption of cocaine, but it’s not because people suddenly developed god-sent good sense: ACIC believes that the decrease in cocaine consumption is due to law enforcement seizures and detections that have limited supply, as there is no tangible evidence of a reduction in demand.

The breakdown by Australian state

Here, we’ve broken down the biggest users of each given substance by state and territory.

The report monitors capital city wastewater and regional wastewater sites. Where the table shows “N/A”, this was due to a lack of available evidence.

DrugHighest consuming state in capital city sitesHighest consuming state in regional sites
NicotineNorthern TerritoryNorthern Territory
MethylamphetamineN/ASouth Australia
CocaineNew South WalesN/A
MDMAVictoriaSouth Australia
MDA (Sally)Western AustraliaN/A
HeroinNew South WalesN/A
CannabisTasmaniaNorthern Territory
KetamineNorthern TerritoryQueensland
OxycodoneAustralian Capital TerritoryTasmania
FentanylTasmaniaSouth Australia

Some of these results are perhaps unsurprising – for example, cocaine. Australia ranks as one of the biggest per capita consumers of cocaine in the world, and Sydney leads those rankings. Anyone who’s lived in The Harbour City long enough knows that Sydneysiders love coke, so to see NSW top the rankings for cocaine isn’t a big surprise.

All jokes aside, as Rippon notes, all drugs – both illegal drugs and those with abuse potential – can be harmful, with the amount of community harm directly proportional to the number of substances consumed.

In short: the more drugs you take, the more you hurt yourself and those around you. From here on out, it might be best to stick to the double espressos.