By Paul Osborne
May 02, 2006
A BOOMING home-based industry in poor-quality party drugs is threatening the lives of young Australians, authorities warn.
The latest overview of the national illegal drug trade shows almost 14 tonnes of illegal drugs were seized in 2004-05.
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report, released today, shows the drugs include almost seven tonnes of cannabis, 2.3 tonnes of amphetamines, 194kg of heroin and 191kg of cocaine.
ACC chief Alastair Milroy said cannabis remained the most widely used illicit drug, with growers in every state and territory.
But he said there was a growing trend towards people making amphetamines at home.
"Clandestine laboratory detections have continued to increase, with 381 laboratories detected nationally," Mr Milroy said.
The number of labs detected by police had risen from 50 in 1996, with every state except NSW and South Australia recording rises in the past year.
Half of the labs detected were in Queensland, with most being small "box labs" which could be quickly transported or hidden.
Mr Milroy said the most popular amphetamine appeared to be crystal methylamphetamine, or ice.
Much of it was of poor quality, potentially putting lives at risk because of the uncertainty of the chemicals in the drug, he said.
There also were fears children in homes where drugs were made could be exposed to toxic chemicals.
Mr Milroy said the drugs were most commonly used by young people at parties and clubs.
Police are also concerned the low quality of ice being made in Australia may boost demand for imports.
The report showed most of the alternative party drug MDMA, or ecstasy, was coming in from western Europe, but some was being produced locally.
While there were fewer shipments in the past year, they were of greater weight.
Police and Customs last year seized what is believed to be the world's largest single detection of MDMA – more than 1.2 tonnes, or five million tablets shipped from Italy in a container of tiles.
Mr Milroy said tablets sold as ecstasy often had a variety of drugs mixed with MDMA or no MDMA at all.
The amount of heroin seized was almost double the previous year, but much lower than figures recorded prior to 2002-03.
The cocaine market remained fairly stable with Western Australia (102kg) and NSW (75kg) accounting for most of the cocaine seized nationally – most of which entered the country through the post.
Of the 77,000 drug-related arrests during the year, 70 per cent of them were over cannabis.