Australia’s Growing Illicit Drug Consumption


Australia has spent over $11b on prohibited drugs just last year.

In fact, reports say that while the Sydney community is consuming less alcohol, consumption of prohibited drugs have increased, namely cocaine methylamphetamine and nicotine.

From the $11.3b spent on drugs by our nation last year, just over $8b of it was on methylamphetamine.

The ACIC Chief Executive, Michael Phelan has said, “This is one of the more tragic, harmful and wasteful aspects of illicit drug markets: expenditure on drug purchases which might otherwise have been spend in the legitimate economy that generates illicit profits for the sole benefit of organised crime groups”.

According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), in respect of the nation’s wastewater- 900kg of heroin, over 2,000kg of MDMA, over 4,000kg of cocaine and over 11,000kg of methylamphetamine was consumed across Australia.


What is the Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program?

The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program gives insightful, coordinated research across the nation with intelligence on prohibited drugs and with a focus on methylamphetamine and other substances.

The wastewater analysis is generally applied around the world as a way to measure and decipher drug use within national populations.

It’s a purpose-built program establishing an objective evidence base in respect to illicit drug use and extent of use of a number of legitimate substances such as alcohol.

The recent snapshot of wastewater also reveals the following interesting information:

  • NSW have the largest average capital city and regional cocaine consumption across the nation.
  • NSW have the largest average consumption of MDMA and fentanyl in regional areas- Victoria on the other hand had the largest heroin consumption.
  • The NT has amongst the largest nicotine and alcohol consumption, followed by Tasmania.
  • Alcohol consumption in Sydney remains consistently as the largest consumed drug across all our States and Territories over the last three years.
  • Spending as a nation on cocaine, MDMA, heroin and methylamphetamine have been increasing each year.
  • Methylamphetamine, MDMA, oxycodone, alcohol & fentanyl are more often consumed in regional locations, while heroin and cocaine are more commonly used in our nations’ cities.

From the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Dr. Amy Peacock has said, “The cocaine trend is really interesting… because while we’re seeing an increasing number of users, frequency of use remains low [4 to 5 days every 6-months], price remains stable [$300 per gram].”

Hospitalisations from cocaine are and remain low, while “more people are using methylamphetamine and experiencing harm and we need to be prepared to address that”, she said.

In fact, it is reported that methylamphetamine use is the leading reasons hospitalisation from illicit drug use in our nation.

Drug Possession Laws in NSW

NSW now has on-the-spot fines (penalty notices) similar to minor traffic infringements for people who possess a prohibited drug, and if:

  • It’s either MDMA (ecstasy) in capsule form (weighing less than 0.25g); or
  • Its MDMA (ecstasy) in non-capsule form (weighing less than 0.75g); or
  • It’s any of illicit drug (prohibited drug), weighing no more than the ‘small quantity’ for that drug under the law.

In those instances, police can issue $400 on-the-spot fine pursuant to section 333 Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) and schedule 4 Criminal Procedure Regulation 2017 (NSW).

Where a person is caught with possessing cannabis, police can issue a cannabis caution if:

  • It’s 15g or less; and
  • For personal use; and
  • He/she admit to having possessing of it; and
  • He/she doesn’t have any other pending criminal charge; and
  • He/she has no previous drug record, violence record or sexual assault record; and
  • He/she has not been previously cautions for this on more than 2 occasions.

If the on-the-spot fine if issued, payment of it puts an end to the case without a criminal conviction, and without a need to ever appear in court.

Otherwise, possessing a prohibited drug in NSW is a crime which will require an accused person to appear in court to either plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ to it.

A drug possession charge carries a maximum penalty of 2-years jail or $2,200 fine, or both prescribed by section 10 Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW).

The court’s normally do not impose a maximum sentence. In facts, a person who pleads guilty to a drug possession charge can end up avoiding a criminal record in court, also known as a section 10 or Conditional Release Order non-conviction sentence.

More information of drug law? Speak to one of our criminal lawyers in Sydney over a free consult.

In order for an accused person to be found guilty for drug possession charges in NSW, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements of this crime beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused person had control or custody of it. This means he/she had the exclusive right to exclude others who aren’t acting in concert; and
  2. The accused person knew of its existence or aware of the likelihood of its existence (or nature of its existence); and
  3. It is under the law in NSW a prohibited drug or plant.

Click here for the defences to drug possession charges in NSW Court.

About Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

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