Ice, heroin in short supply in pandemic

·2-min read

Illicit drug users in Australia say there has been a decline in the availability of methamphetamine and heroin during COVID-19 restrictions.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW on Thursday released a report based on annual surveys of hundreds of people who regularly use drugs in Australia.

Out of the 884 people interviewed from capital cities who regularly inject drugs, 71 per cent reported a decline in the availability of crystal methamphetamine and 45 per cent for heroin since COVID-19 restrictions began.

They also reported the price of crystal meth and heroin had increased since the beginning of March when COVID-19 restrictions began.

Program leader for Drug Trends, Amy Peacock said the possible reason for the price hike and lack of supply could be interrupting illegal drug supply in Australia.

"Major disruption to these markets could see increased treatment demand. Many services are already at capacity. Greater investment in drug and alcohol treatment and support will be critical," she said.

"There is also the risk that we may see people turn to more easily transportable, cheaper substances instead, which may carry significant risk of harm."

One third of participants reported injecting at a different frequency during the last month compared with February, with 70 per cent reporting a decrease in injecting frequency,.

The NDARC also released findings from the National Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, which surveyed 805 people in capital cities who regularly consume ecstasy and other illegal stimulants.

Participants reported a decrease in the use of a number of drugs since March, including ecstasy/MDMA (70 per cent), cocaine (46 per cent) and ketamine (45 per cent).

The primary reason for a decrease in use comprised "fewer opportunities to be with people" or "go out".

However, 41 per cent reported an increase in cannabis use, mainly due to "boredom/less things to occupy time", "more time to use the drug" and "greater anxiety/depression with COVID-19".

Most reported drug availability as stable, although crystal methamphetamine and MDMA pills were most commonly cited as drugs that had decreased in availability.

NDARC researchers also released a new bulletin on wave two of the Australians' Drug Use: Adapting to Pandemic Threats study.

The survey of more than 300 people found a continued decline in drug use since COVID-19 restrictions, while cannabis continued have the largest proportion of participants reporting their use had increased since March.