The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is a national illicit drug monitoring system intended to identify emerging trends of local and national concern in illicit drug markets. The IDRS consists of three components: interviews with people who inject drugs (PWID) regularly; interviews with key experts (KEs), who are professionals who have knowledge of drug trends and/or regular contact with users through their work; and analysis and examination of indicator data sources related to illicit drugs. The IDRS monitors the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis. The IDRS is designed to be sensitive to trends, providing data in a timely manner, rather than describing issues in detail.

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The aims of this project are:

  • to monitor the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis
  • to identify emerging trends in illicit drug markets in Australia that require further investigation


Design and Method

The IDRS analyses three main sources of information to document drug trends:

  • a quantitative survey of people who inject drugs (PWID)
  • a semi-structured interview with KE who are professionals working in the illicit drug field, and have regular contact with and/or specialised knowledge of users, dealers or manufacturers
  • a collation of existing indicator data on drug-related issues

Data from these three sources are triangulated against each other to determine the convergent validity of trends detected. The data sources complement each other in the nature of the information they provide. Data from each year's IDRS studies are compared to earlier findings to determine changes in drug trends over time. The strengths of the IDRS are the ability to compare data across jurisdictions as well as over time.





The IDRS is an ongoing project that is conducted annually in all Australian jurisdictions. In 2016, 877 PWID were interviewed across Australia, providing information on their use patterns, drug markets and related issues. KE from a range of professions provided information on the ecstasy and related drug users they had contact with. Indicator data including Australian Customs Service seizures, purity analysis, overdose and treatment data were examined.


The project is ongoing in 2016.



Project Collaborators: External


Chris Moon (Northern Territory Department of Health)

Rosa Alati (University of Queensland)


Fairlie McIllwraith (University of Queensland)

Raimondo Bruno (University of Tasmania)

Bethany Lusk (University of Tasmania)


Simon Lenton (National Drug Research Institute)

James Fetherston (National Drug Research Institute)

Paul Dietze (Burnet Institute)





Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre

University of Tasmania

Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health

National Drug Research Institute

NT Government Department of Health and Community Services



Project Supporters


Australian Government Department of Health