Authorities have had their suspicions confirmed this week after the first ever wastewater drug report revealed the use of methylamphetamine and opioid based pain medications are on the rise right across the nation, including Tamworth.
The Tamworth waterworks at Westdale was one of five regional NSW sites, one of ten sites across the state, and one of 51 sites chosen across Australia to take part in the National Wastewater Drug Testing, which covers 58 per cent of the national population.
The $3.6 million program was unveiled by federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan last year in response to recommendations from the federal government’s ice taskforce, and run by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
While Tamworth was chosen as a site for specific reasons, those reasons and the individual results of tested sites are to remain confidential, although law enforcement, health and other relevant policy agencies will be given access to specific results.
The overwhelming figure to come out of the testing is that methylamphetamine is the highest consumed illicit drug across all 51 sites.
Alarmingly those figures have Australia ranked second of the 18 nations worldwide that carry out similar testing across the four major common stimulants in usage per capita.
While Australia averages 39 daily doses per 1000 people, Slovakia in central Europe tops the pops with well over 60 doses per 1000 citizens, with the Czech Republic in third.
Of the states and territories Western Australia has the highest ice usage in both city and regional test sites, far exceeding the national average, while there was also high levels of use recorded at several regional sites in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
Sydney and regional NSW sites dominated the national landscape as far as cocaine usage went, almost doubling the doses per day usage of the second biggest user groups of the ACT and Northern Territory.
While consumption of other stimulants was much lower than ice, and consumption of MDMA across almost all sites was “unremarkable” there has been a major increase in the use of opioid based drugs, both licit and illicit, such as oxycodone and fentanyl.
Overall the most commonly consumed drugs across all sites were unsurprisingly alcohol and tobacco, with Northern Territorians well above average in both categories across city and regional locations.
Minister Keenan said this new data will pinpoint targets for law enforcement agencies and also act as a marker to monitor how well current methods of enforcement are working.
“The results provide us with the greatest ever insight into what drugs are being consumed and where, with the covert testing covering about 14 million Australians,” Minister Keenan said.
“This is critical baseline data, the first of nine tests to be conducted over the next three years, which will ensure we can better target our law enforcement and health responses, and monitor their progress.”