Cocaine blowout as users snowball
AUSTRALIANS’ appetite for cocaine has soared in recent years, with use of the drug almost doubling since 2016 and police seizures increasing six-fold.
The significant increase in cocaine use is revealed in a report on illicit drugs to be released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission today.
Data compiled by the commission reveals a rapidly expanding market for cocaine in Australia despite users paying some of the highest prices in the world.
The report – which compiles figures on arrests, detection, seizure, purity, profiling and price – found a record 27.4 tonnes of illicit drugs were seized and a record 154,650 people arrested in 2016-17.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in Australia and ice remains a “large and intractable” problem, while the market for heroin “remains relatively small and stable”, according to the report.
Abuse of prescription opioids such as fentanyl declined slightly across Australia in 2016-17, but authorities are bracing for an increase, following a rising trend in the US.
Queensland has become the steroid capital of Australia, with the state accounting for almost half the drugs by weight seized by police in the country.
The state also had the greatest proportion of steroid arrests, accounting for more than 55 per cent of suspects detained across Australia.
But the spike in cocaine abuse poses the biggest challenge for police, customs and health authorities, commission chief Michael Phelan said.
Cocaine seizures and arrests hit a record high in 2016-17, which is the most recent period measured by the data.
A record 3366 people were arrested in relation to cocaine offences in 2016-17, which is the sixth consecutive annual increase.
More than 4.6 tonnes of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of $1.7 billion, was seized in Australia in 2016-17, but this is only a fraction of the amount that has made its way into the community.
Wastewater analysis found cocaine use had almost doubled since the testing program began in August 2016, with rises in both capital cities and regional areas.
“Cocaine use in Australia causes misery to people in source countries – Colombia, Bolivia and Peru – and in other regions affected by the cocaine trade, including Mexico and countries in Central America,” Mr Phelan said.