A new Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) report, where 824 police detainees across the nation were interviewed about their knowledge of emerging and less commonly used illicit drugs, shows different patterns of knowledge and drug use across Australia.
The Drug Use Monitoring Australia (DUMA) program asked detainees about knowledge and use of mephedrone (Meow Meow), GHB, ketamine and rohypnol (the date rape drug). The average age of detainees interviewed was 32 years and 82% were male.
Overall, a substantial proportion of detainees (Kings Cross, Brisbane, Southport) reported having heard of GHB, rohypnol and ketamine, suggesting that these illicit substances are well-known among offender populations, while mephedrone, a form of plant fertiliser, was best known in Perth.
Recent knowledge of a current GHB or ketamine dealer was highest in Bankstown, while knowledge of Rohypnol was highest in Brisbane.
AIC Research manager Jason Payne said: “While the findings indicate a low level of use, these drugs were nevertheless known by the majority of detainees. There remains a need for ongoing assessment to identify changing trends and patterns of use that can be responded to accordingly by police and Governments.”
The DUMA program complements existing data sources through its sampling of police detainees - it covers a population more likely to be involved in drug use, but less likely to be included in national prevalence surveys.
Despite low levels of use, a similar proportion of detainees reported knowing a current dealer of mephedrone (4%) compared with the other drug types.
This study is the first to use a large sample of Australian police detainees to investigate both the knowledge and prevalence of use for newly emerging and less commonly used drugs.
“Developing an evidence base and monitoring trends in illicit drug use is critical to ensuring that health and law enforcement responses are adequately and appropriately targeted,” Mr Payne said.
“In particular, it is important to ensure that policymakers and practitioners are sufficiently equipped with current and reliable information about some of Australia’s least researched drug types—including the newly emerging as well as less commonly used drugs,” he said.
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