Report | 09 09 2016


2016 IDRS Key findings - Drug Trends Conference handout



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 regularly (PWID); 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.


Key findings


  • 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.