CANBERRA, Australia — Australia-wide wastewater samples show meth consumption has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and Ketamine is being used more than just a typical medical substance.
The report by National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, released on June 30, tracks drug consumption for 12 substances, including Ketamine, for the first time.
It found alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed drugs in Australia, while methylamphetamine is the nation’s most consumed illicit substance.
The data, covering 13.1 million Australians and based on wastewater samples collected from across the country in December and February, indicates meth use is rising.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission report notes methylamphetamine, more commonly known as ice or crystal meth, was “significantly affected by events in 2020.”
Doses fell to about 30 per 1000 people by August, after previously hovering in the range of 50 per 1000 people before the pandemic.
“In general, a steep decrease of methylamphetamine consumption was observed in many jurisdictions immediately after the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions, which has been followed by a slow recovery to levels just below those in December 2019,” it said.
“The impact of Covid-19 was most dramatic in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, and Western Australia, where the capital city averages reached historically low levels in August.”
The latest round of wastewater samples from December showed methylamphetamine use has increased to nearly 40 daily doses per 1000 people.
New South Wales and South Australia had some of the highest capital city levels, while sites in Tasmania and Victoria had the highest regional use.
The report highlighted a suspected instance of “methylamphetamine dumping” at a Sydney site on a day during the February collection period.
It was equivalent to nine kilograms of meth above normal levels, it said.
Another drug, Ketamine, also produced surprising results as it was added to the monitoring list due to growing concern over its abuse potential.
The substance is a depressant used by medical practitioners and veterinarians, but the United Nations reports illicit manufacturing and trafficking centered in Asia has spread into other regions, including Australia.
Parts of New South Wales and regional Victoria were found to be the highest Ketamine users, with consumption wider over the collection week than might be expected for a substance with medical applications.
Meanwhile, New South Wales remains Australia’s most significant cocaine state with the highest overall consumption figures in the nation.
Since the monitoring program began in August 2016, cocaine use has risen, and the pandemic only briefly interrupted measured levels in April 2020.
It has now mostly returned to pre-Covid levels or slightly increased, including in Victoria, despite its extended lockdown.
MDMA — commonly known as ecstasy — use was relatively low compared to methylamphetamine and cocaine, while heroin consumption in Victoria declined after reaching historically high levels last August.
In other trends, Tasmania and the Northern Territory had the highest levels of nicotine use and consumption of alcohol among capital cities.
Nicotine, MDMA, heroin, and cannabis decreased from August to December. Conversely, alcohol, methylamphetamine, cocaine, oxycodone, and fentanyl increased in the same period.
The December 2020 collection covers about 56 percent of the population. In addition, 57 wastewater sites were monitored nationally. Eleven in Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales, nine in South Australia, seven in Western Australia, five in Tasmania, two in the Northern Territory, and one in the Australian Capital Territory.
The February 2021 collection (capital city sites only) covers about 48 percent.
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Saptak Datta)
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