Report | 12 09 2016


2016 IDRS & EDRS Key Findings - Drug Trends Conference handout



The Drug Trends program, based at NDARC, monitors Australian trends in illicit drug use.A major component of this work is the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) and the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS).

Each year the IDRS and EDRS collects and collates information from:

  1. People who use drugs
  2. Key experts who can comment on drug markets
  3. Indicator data including hospitalisations, treatment episodes and mortality

The IDRS monitors the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis, while the EDRS monitors the price, purity, availability and patterns of use of ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, ketamine, GHB, MDA and LSD.


Key findings IDRS


  • Eight hundred and seventy-seven people who inject drugs (PWID) were interviewed for the 2016 IDRS.
  • Heroin remained the most commonly reported drug of choice for participants (46%) followed by any methamphetamine (29%), with an increase in those specifically reporting crystal methamphetamine as their drug of choice (15% to 21%). 
  • In 2016 similar proportions reported heroin (39%) and methamphetamine (40%) as the drug injected most in the last month. Specifically, there was a significant increase in crystal methamphetamine as drug most injected (28% in 2015 to 36% in 2016).
  • The proportion of the national sample who reported recent heroin use (56%) remained stable and varied by jurisdiction. In 2016, daily heroin use was reported by 41% of the national sample and 17% reported weekly or more use. Heroin was reported to be ‘very easy’ to obtain and of ‘medium to low’ purity.
  • The trend regarding the increased use of crystal and corresponding decrease in use of speed powder continues with a significant increase in the recent use of crystal (67% in 2015 to 73% in 2016) and significant decrease in speed powder (25% in 2015 to 20% in 2016).
  • The 2016 data show a significant increase in the frequency of use of crystal (median of 30 days, 20 in 2015). Significantly more participants reported ‘weekly or more’ crystal use (33% in 2015 to 41% in 2016). The frequency of speed and base use remained stable. 
  • All forms of methamphetamine were considered ‘very easy’ or ‘easy’ to obtain. Crystal was reported as ‘high’ in purity, while speed powder and base were of 'medium' purity.
  • Nationally, the recent use of cocaine remained stable (11%) and the frequency of use low. NSW remained the only jurisdiction where sizeable numbers of participants were able to comment on cocaine with one-quarter (25%) reporting having recently used cocaine (34% in 2015). Cocaine was reported as ‘easy’ to obtain and the purity considered ‘low to medium’ by the national sample.
  • Large proportions (73%) report recent use of cannabis and this has remained stable with the frequency of use of 135 days. A third (32%) of the sample report daily cannabis use. Hydroponic cannabis dominated the market. 
    Extra-medical use and injection of pharmaceutical preparations continued to occur, with jurisdictional differences in patterns observed. Nationally, the proportions reporting recent use of oxycodone significantly decreased from 25% in 2015 to 21% in 2016, although use varied by jurisdiction. Nationally, small numbers reported recently using fentanyl (10% in 2016).
  • Sharing injection equipment is common with a quarter of the sample sharing injecting equipment (excluding needles). Smaller proportions reported borrowing (7%) or lending (11%) needles. Around one-third of the participants (38%) re-used their own needles in the last month.
  • Nearly half of the national sample (43%) self-reported having had a mental health problem in the last six months with depression the most commonly reported, followed by anxiety. Around one-third (29%) of the national sample reported attending a health professional for their problem.


Key findings EDRS


  • Seven hundred and ninety-five regular psychostimulant users (RPU) took part in face to face EDRS interviews in 2016. Participants were primarily recruited through the internet (58%) and word of mouth (30%).
  • Ecstasy was the drug of choice by over a third of the sample (36%) followed by cannabis (21%).
  • The most popular form of ecstasy consumed on a regular basis was still pill (tablet) form. There remains an increasing trend in the use of MDMA crystal/rock with this form considered to be a more potent form of ecstasy. Over half (54%) of MDMA crystal/rock users reporting it being of ‘high’ purity compared to 25% of those reporting pills, powder and caps as ‘high’.
  • A quarter of the national sample reported ‘weekly or more’ use of ecstasy.
  • Ecstasy is used in a range of public and private locations. Almost half (44%) of RPU nominated nightclubs as the last location they used ecstasy while intoxicated.
  • The price of ecstasy remained stable at $25 per tablet.
  • The recent use of methamphetamine (all forms) remained stable with 38% of the sample reporting recent use and 7% of the national sample reporting ‘weekly or more’ use, specifically crystal (6%).
  • Speed powder remained the form of methamphetamine used by largest proportion of RPU (25%) followed by crystal with 19% reporting recent use.
  • All forms of methamphetamine were considered ‘very easy to easy’ to obtain. Speed powder was reported to be of ‘medium’ purity and crystal and base were reported to be of ‘high’ purity.
  • The recent use of New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) remained stable with about a third (34%) of the sample reporting NPS use in the past six months. The most commonly reported NPS were: any 2C, (13%)  DMT (15%) and DXM (6%). Frequency of use was low. Synthetic cannabis was reported at low levels (4%) and comparable to 2015 data.
  • Nationally about half (47%) reporting recent use of cocaine. Frequency of use was low. Price of cocaine remained stable at $300 for a gram.
  • The recent use of cannabis remained high (86%) and stable.  About a fifth of the sample reported daily cannabis use. Price remained stable.
  • The recent use of LSD, ketamine and GHB significantly increased between 2015 and 2016, with variation by jurisdiction.  The frequency of use remains sporadic.
  • There were significant increases in recent use of a range of substances including: nitrous oxide (25% in 2015 and 36% in 2016), amyl nitrate (21% in 2015 and 27% in 2016), benzodiazepines (32% in 2015 and 38% in 2016) and other opiates (14% in 2015 and 21% in 2016).
  • The recent use of e-cigarettes significantly decreased (34% in 2015 and 26% in 2016).
  • Alcohol is the second most commonly used drug among this group with 97% reporting recent use on a median of 48 days (twice weekly). Around three-quarters of the sample (73%) reported hazardous alcohol use and 15% reported levels where further evaluation or treatment may be warranted.
  • About a fifth of the national sample (18%) reported ever having purchased a drug online with 14% reporting purchasing online in the past year.