When the wastewater tests show up ice, MDMA and prescription pain killers

What the wastewater of regional towns reveal

Illegal drug use in regional areas has far exceeded city consumption.

Wastewater tests by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission reveal regional drug users have turned to ice, MDMA, MDA, cannabis, smoking, alcohol and even prescription pain killers in spades.

Tamworth Regional Council crime prevention group chair Russell Webb said there's no doubt illicit drug use in the city has an impact on crime rates.

"It surprises me a little bit that we have so many areas where drug use is higher and I'm disappointed if that's the case," he said.

"It comes down to more education programs to try to convince people that drug use isn't a smart thing to be involved in.

"Illicit drug use definitely has an impact on crime rates, a lot of people in Tamworth who can't afford to buy the drugs that they might need turn to crime and petty theft to buy the drugs and that's a real shame."

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The program monitors wastewater and tests for illegal drugs, it showed that between August and December last year the use of heroin, oxycodone and cannabis decreased in regional areas.

The use of ice in the regions is higher than capital cities at more than 1600mg per 1000 people each day.

Wastewater is tested in six anonymous sites in NSW, one in a major city and five in regional towns.

Consumption of most drugs has been higher in regional sites since 2016 with the exception of cocaine and heroin.

The use of prescription painkillers has slowly crept up across regional Australia, of course in wastewater tests there is no way to tell if the use is legal or not.

Both oxycodone and fentanyl are legally prescribed pharmaceuticals with the potential for addiction and abuse.

Fentanyl use in regional towns was almost double that of the metropolitan average.

From mid-2018 to the present, use of MDMA has increased in regional parts of Australia, reaching its highest levels since the start of the program.

When compared to 30 other countries, Australia ranks fourth highest for total estimated stimulant consumption, specifically methylamphetamine, amphetamine, cocaine and MDMA.

The ACIC received an additional $4.8 million in 2019 to fund the program.

Earlier this year ACIC funded a project to detect COVID-19 in wastewater for the first time.

This story What the wastewater of regional towns reveal first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.