Regional drug use: ice, alcohol and opioids more prevalent in places like Tamworth

REPORT: A national wastewater testing report shows what drugs regional Australians are using. Photo: File
REPORT: A national wastewater testing report shows what drugs regional Australians are using. Photo: File

DRUG users in regional Australia have flushed more nicotine, alcohol, ice, stimulants and opioids down the toilet than those in the cities.

An Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) wastewater report reveals an estimated 11.5 tonnes of the drug ice was used in the country last year.

With resources more thinly spread in regional Australia, it makes it harder to tackle drug and alcohol addiction, ACIC chief executive Michael Phelan said.

"Australians are spending a significant amount of money on illicit substances each year, generating profits for the sole benefit of organised crime groups," he said.

"Illicit drugs have a devastating impact on everyday Australians.

"Organised criminals involved in the illicit drug trade prey on our communities to make a profit, they don't care about the devastation caused through health and social costs, or the drug-related crime."

Rural drug users, like those in Tamworth, NSW, die at twice the rate because of poor access to treatment options.

The samples were collected from August 2018 to 2019, and cover about 57 per cent of the population. In regional areas the use of cannabis and MDMA increased, but on average Australia's drug use decreased with the exception of heroin and pain-relief medication oxycodone.

At least 40 per cent of all record high drug use levels in both capital cities and regional areas were recorded in April 2019.

Results are drawn from 22 waste water treatment plants located in capital cities and another 36 in regional Australia.

The testing covers a population of more than 13 million people, Mr Phelan said.

"By measuring the level of consumption of illicit drugs and legal drugs with abuse potential, the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP) can identify new sources of threat and be used as a key indicator of harm posed by these substances," he said.

Exact site locations are kept anonymous by the ACIC.

The wastewater drug testing is funded until June 2023.