Australia’s wastewater has given new insights into the nation’s drug consumption.

The latest version of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) uses representative samples taken from confidential sites around the country.

The remnant proportions persisting in the environment suggest that 11.5 tonnes of methylamphetamine was consumed in Australia last year.

This was in addition to 4.6 tonnes of cocaine, 2.2 tonnes of MDMA, and more than 900 kilograms of heroin.

Australians spent an estimated $11.3 billion on methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin from August 2018–August 2019. Of this, $8.63 billion was spent on methylamphetamine.

ACIC CEO Mr Michael Phelan APM said this is one of the more tragic, harmful and wasteful aspects of illicit drug markets.

“Australians are spending a significant amount of money on illicit substances each year, generating profits for the sole benefit of organised crime groups. This is money that might otherwise have been spent on legitimate goods for themselves and their families,” Mr Phelan said.

“Illicit drugs have a devastating impact on everyday Australians. Organised criminals involved in the illicit drug trade prey on our communities to make a profit. They don’t care about the devastation caused through health and social costs, or the drug-related crime.

“By measuring the level of consumption of illicit drugs and legal drugs with abuse potential, the NWDMP can identify new sources of threat and be used as a key indicator of harm posed by these substances,” he said.

The August 2019 collection covers around 57 per cent of Australia’s population—about 13.3 million Australians.

Of the drugs measured by the program with available dose data, alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed drugs in Australia, with methylamphetamine the most consumed illicit drug.

The report found that per capita consumption of cocaine and heroin in capital cities exceeded regional consumption. However, the per capita regional consumption of nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis exceeded that in capital cities. This has implications for response options because resources are more thinly spread in regional Australia.

The report found that between April 2019 and August 2019, the population-weighted average consumption of all tested substances decreased, with the exception of heroin and oxycodone. Cannabis consumption also increased in regional areas.

The full report is available in PDF form, here.