Report | 18 05 2016


National Report 2015 - The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS)


The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is an ongoing illicit drug system funded by the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund. The IDRS has been conducted in all states and territories of Australia since 1999. The purpose of the IDRS is to provide a coordinated approach to monitoring the use of illicit drugs – in particular, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis. It is designed to be sensitive to trends, providing data in a timely manner, rather than to describe issues in detail. Therefore, the IDRS can provide direction for more detailed data collection on specific issues.


The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) is intended to serve as a monitoring system, identifying emerging trends of local and national concern in illicit drug markets. The IDRS consists of three components: interviews with a sentinel group of people who regularly inject drugs (PWID1) conducted in the capital cities of Australia; interviews with key experts (KE), professionals who have regular contact with illicit drug users through their work; and analysis and examination of indicator data sources related to illicit drugs. Australian Drug Trends 2015 draws largely on the PWID participant survey and indicator data components of the IDRS, while KE provide contextual information within jurisdictions. As a result, the KE information is reported more fully in the individual state/territory reports, to which the reader is also referred.


The complete methodology consists of three components: interviews with people who regularly inject drugs (PWID); interviews with key experts (KE), people who, through the nature of their work, have regular contact with PWID or knowledge of drug trends; and an examination of existing indicator data sources related to illicit drug use, such as opioid overdose data, treatment data, and purity of seizures of illicit drugs made by law enforcement agencies. These three data sources are presented in order to minimise the biases and weaknesses inherent in each one, and to ensure valid emerging trends are documented.


Eight hundred and eighty-eight participants were recruited to the 2015 IDRS participant survey component. The mean age of the national sample was 42 years (range 17-71 years) and 67% were male. The vast majority of the sample spoke English as their main language at home (98%), and 20% identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. More than three-quarters (83%) of the sample were currently unemployed, over half (55%) reported a previous prison history and nearly half (47%) were in current treatment, mainly methadone.


Current drug use consumption pattern results


  • The mean age participants first injected was 20 years. Of the national sample, 46% reported that methamphetamine powder (speed) was the first drug injected, followed by heroin (36%).
  • Heroin was nominated as the drug of choice by approximately half (52%) of the national sample, followed by methamphetamine, morphine and cannabis.
  • The drug injected most often in the last month broadly followed the same pattern. Forty-one percent of the national sample reported injecting heroin most often in the last month, followed by methamphetamine. Nearly half (47%) of the participants in the national sample reported daily injecting.