Publications

All NDLERF publications, listed by most recent release date.

October 2005

The Sydney methamphetamine market: Patterns of supply, use, personal harms and social consequences
Research Summary 13

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

May 2005

The governance of illicit synthetic drugs
Monograph 9

Throughout the lifecycle of an illicit synthetic drug there are a number of individuals or institutions in a position to reduce supply. This project aims to identify concrete examples of law enforcement agencies harnessing external institutions (public, private and non-profit) in furtherance of amphetamine and other illicit synthetic drug control, and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each. The research has focused on strategies adopted by law enforcement agencies overseas, and involved fieldwork in Asia, Europe and the United States. The study discusses international and Australian chemical diversion control initiatives and the challenges of diversion control and supply reduction partnerships, and examines various models adopted by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States to prevent the diversion of necessary chemicals and equipment into the manufacture of illicit synthetic drugs. The study concludes that law enforcement can harness the resources of other organisations in the public and private sectors through a range of mechanisms both mandatory and voluntary, and summarises a number of best practice principles for supply reduction partnerships which have been distilled from the case studies.

The governance of illicit synthetic drugs
Research Summary 9

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

November 2004

August 2004

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in South Australia
Research Summary 5

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in New South Wales
Monograph 4

This report presents the findings of the New South Wales component of a national investigation into the heroin shortage which began in early 2001. While the heroin market in New South Wales appears to have stabilised following the shortage, it has not returned to pre shortage levels and heroin purity remains low. The report examines the New South Wales impacts of the heroin shortage in terms of changes in patterns of drug use and the number of heroin users; changes in injecting drug use; changes in health effects of drug use and drug treatment; changes in drug crime and in crime associated with drugs; impact on law enforcement operations; and changes in health agency operations. The analysis finds that following the heroin shortage in New South Wales there was a decrease in heroin use, a decrease in the distribution of needles and syringes and probably also in the number of injecting drug users; a decrease in fatal and non fatal heroin overdoses; a clear increase in the use of psychostimulants, particularly cocaine; an overall increase in admissions for cocaine overdose and a brief increase in the number of drug induced psychoses; increased treatment episodes for psychostimulant use among younger people; increased levels of crime and aggression for those who continued to use heroin and other drugs; and short term increases in illicit sex work and acquisitive crime, offset by an apparent overall sustained decrease in acquisitive crime.

The causes, course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Australia
Research Summary 3

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Victoria
Research Summary 6

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in South Australia
Monograph 5

This report presents the findings of the South Australian component of a national investigation into the heroin shortage which began in early 2001. The report finds that within the first few months of the shortage in South Australia, the availability of heroin was severely restricted and what could be sourced was of very low purity. At the present time heroin can be acquired on demand though not as easily as before the shortage, while the purity of street level heroin has slowly increased. The report examines the South Australian impacts of the heroin shortage in terms of changes in the drug market; changes in patterns of drug use; health related impacts; changes in treatment provision for drug based issues; changes in criminal activity; and impacts on health and law enforcement agencies. The analysis finds that following the heroin shortage there was a reduction in the number of fatal and non fatal heroin related overdoses and a reduction in heroin use; greater methamphetamine use; intravenous use of benzodiazepines and other opioids; an increase in mental health difficulties, psychosis and violence due to increased methamphetamine use, as reported by key informants, though this was not reflected in hospital data; no significant increase in treatment seeking for opioids, but a steady increase in the demand for methamphetamine related treatment services. With respect to crime, the report finds no changes in the rates of incidents per month that were probably attributable to the heroin shortage, apart from an initial spike in incidents of robbery without a weapon.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in NSW
Research Summary 4

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The causes, course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Australia
Monograph 3

In early 2001, Australia experienced an abrupt and substantial reduction in the availability of heroin. This study was commissioned by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund to provide a detailed description of the course of the heroin shortage, a comprehensive analysis of its effects and an examination of the factors contributing to its occurrence. The study is based on a number of data sources, including interviews with regular heroin users and key informants and indicator data such as arrests and overdose deaths, and includes a focused examination of drug markets in three jurisdictions: New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The study finds that the heroin shortage was probably due to a combination of market and law enforcement factors, and that the market now appears to have stabilised, though it has not returned to its pre 2001 levels. The consequences of the heroin shortage included changes in patterns of drug use, including a switch to other drugs; a decrease in acquisitive crime; a decrease in fatal and non fatal overdoses; mixed health effects for different groups of heroin users; changed demands on health and drug treatment services; and an increase in incidents involving violent and aggressive individuals, following greater use of cocaine and methamphetamine. The study also considers the policy implications of the reduction in heroin supply in Australia. The most important implication of the heroin shortage is that it is possible, under some circumstances, for law enforcement to accomplish a substantial reduction in the availability of imported drugs like heroin. However it is uncertain to what degree the reduction achieved in heroin supply in 2000 could be easily reproduced by an act of policy.

The course and consequences of the heroin shortage in Victoria
Monograph 6

This report presents the findings of the Victorian component of a national investigation into the heroin shortage which began in early 2001. The aim of the research was to investigate the heroin shortage in Melbourne in some detail with a view to examining the longer term consequences of the heroin shortage in Victoria. Based on analysis of existing data sources as well as a series of key informant interviews, the project documents the heroin shortage in Victoria, including changes in the price, purity and availability of other drugs, and examines resulting changes in drug use among injecting drug users; changes in the health effects of drug use; changes in drug treatment; changes in drug related criminal activity associated with the heroin shortage; changes in health and law enforcement agency operations; and key informant impressions of the heroin shortage. The analysis finds that the heroin shortage was characterised by reports of decreased availability and purity, and increased price, of heroin in Melbourne; however recent data on heroin seizure purity show an increase in purity since the most acute phase of the shortage. The heroin shortage was also associated with a decrease in the reported use of heroin and overall injection frequency reported by samples of injecting drug users in Melbourne; a dramatic decline in the number of heroin related deaths in Victoria; a dramatic decline in the number of non fatal heroin overdoses in Melbourne that was most acute in the Central Business District; a dramatic decline in the number of opioid hospitalisations in Victoria; a decline in the number of courses of treatment for opioids provided by the specialist drug treatment service system; a short term increase in the number of robbery incidents recorded by Victoria Police; and a decline in heroin related incidents recorded in areas of Melbourne containing street based drug markets. The shortage also enabled health and law enforcement agencies to focus on other issues or drugs that were not able to be addressed during the earlier heroin epidemic. The overall extent of injecting drug use apparently changed little in Victoria as a result of the heroin shortage, with injecting drug users shifting their drug use to amphetamines, benzodiazepines, prescribed opioids and cannabis. The findings also suggest the emergence of a market for prescribed pharmaceuticals among injecting drug users that has been sustained in the longer term. Health agencies noted a decline in the general physical health of injecting drug users and in their mental health, primarily associated with the use of stimulant drugs, and an increase in injection related problems and risky injecting practices. Unlike other jurisdictions, there did not appear to be an increase the use of cocaine.

July 2004

The role of police in preventing and minimising illicit drug use and its harms
Monograph 2

The objective of this research project was to increase the understanding of Australian police, at the policy, planning and operational levels, of ways in which they can contribute to the outcomes sought by the National Drug Strategy in the strategic areas of harm reduction and demand reduction. Four specific areas considered by the project are: preventing and minimising the impact of drug overdoses; encouraging safer illicit drug-use practice; encouraging entry into drug-treatment programs; and reducing the demand for illicit drugs (including those strategies aimed at reducing the uptake of illicit drugs). Supply reduction strategies were also investigated for their effect upon drug demand and harms. The project included a review of research literature and national consultations with police, the health sector, user representatives, criminologists and other key informants. This report discusses the findings from the literature review and consultations, on police strategies for preventing illicit drug use and minimising its harms; influences on the police in these activities; differences between jurisdictions; harm reduction and demand reduction outcomes; police strategies relevant to multiple areas of harm reduction and demand reduction; and work with minority populations.

The methamphetamine situation in Australia: A review of routine data sources
Research Summary 1

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

The methamphetamine situation in Australia: A review of routine data sources
Monograph 1

This report documents what is known about the methamphetamine situation in Australia through an analysis of routinely collected data sources. Information relating to methamphetamine is summarised for the following issues: prevalence of use among the general and student population; use patterns among party drug users, injecting drug users and offenders; treatment demand; hospital service utilisation for mental and behavioural problems due to stimulants (including psychosis); mortality due to poisoning or overdose; arrest and seizure data for domestic arrests and seizures, domestic clandestine laboratory seizures and import seizures; purity for domestic seizures; and street level prices and availability among party drug users and injecting drug users. The analysis shows that currently 'amphetamines' (predominantly methamphetamine) are the second most commonly used illicit drug type after cannabis, with 9% of Australians having ever tried these drugs. Methamphetamine use and supply has increased in Australia from around 1998-1999, and this increase has co occurred with an increase in related problems such as stimulant induced psychosis.

June 2004

The role of police in preventing and minimising illicit drug use and its harms
Research Summary 2

Plain English summary and implications for police prepared by Roger Nicholas.

Opioid substitution treatment in prison and post-release: Effects on criminal recidivism and mortality
Monograph 37

Opioid substitution treatment (OST) is an effective treatment for heroin dependence that is increasingly available in correctional settings globally; in 2009, at least 29 countries offered OST in at least one correctional institution (Larney & Dolan 2009). In Australia, OST is available in prisons in all jurisdictions, albeit with limitations on treatment access in some jurisdictions (AIHW 2010a). One rationale that is often given in support of prison OST is that it reduces post-release criminality; however, the evidence for this proposition is equivocal. Another rationale for prison OST is that it will reduce the risk of death by drug overdose in the post-release period. The aims of the studies presented in this report are to assess the effects of prison OST on re-incarceration, criminal convictions and mortality.

Developing the capacity and skills for national implementation of a drug law enforcement performance measurement framework
Monograph 34

This report summarises major findings from the second stage of a project to test the feasibility of a model performance measurement framework for Australian drug law enforcement (DLE) agencies and to provide advice on its national implementation.

Comparative rates of violent crime amongst methamphetamine and opioid users: Victimisation and offending
Monograph 32

There have been marked changes in methamphetamine use over the past decade as more potent forms of the drug have become increasingly available, particularly crystalline methamphetamine. A major concern of stronger potency methamphetamine is the increased potential for harm, such as psychotic symptoms and violent behaviour. Little is currently known about what effects methamphetamine use has on violent behaviour.

Illicit Drug Laboratories and the Environment
Monograph 35

The illicit manufacture of amphetamine-type substances in clandestine laboratories is a significant problem in Australia and overseas. Disposal of chemical waste from clandestine laboratories is more likely to involve practices that maintain secrecy rather than practices that protect the environment; inevitably some clandestine laboratories will dispose of waste by burial and that waste that is disposed of in domestic waste will end up in landfill. It has been estimated that approximately 5?6 pounds of waste is produced for each pound of methamphetamine produced (Lukas, 1997). Although the waste itself represents a direct environmental threat, soil is an active material that digests some chemicals and converts them into other chemicals, which themselves could also be a threat. Surprisingly, there has only been one investigation into what happens to drugs, their precursors, and manufacturing by-products when they are buried; therefore it is not yet known whether these chemicals represent an environmental threat or not. A critical task of the forensic clandestine laboratory investigator is to analyse residues of manufacture in order to gather evidence of illicit drug manufacture and evidence of the particular synthetic route used. The chemical make-up of residues that have been buried has not been investigated.

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