Did the heroin shortage cause amphetamine use to increase?

 

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Release Date: Monday, 16 June 2008

New research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that there is no link in NSW between the decline in heroin use and the rise in amphetamine type substance (ATS) use.

Between the September quarter 2002 and the March quarter 2007 the number of hospital emergency department admissions for ATS use in NSW rose by 139 per cent.

The increase in ATS use is a matter of concern because frequent and prolonged ATS use appears to increase the risk of aggressive and violent behaviour.

There have been suggestions in the media and elsewhere that police may have unintentionally caused the rise in ATS use when they reduced the supply of heroin.

The Bureau conducted a statistical analysis of trends in arrests and overdoses for heroin and amphetamine use designed to answer four questions:

  1. Is there is a long-term inverse relationship between heroin use and amphetamine use?
  2. Is there an inverse relationship between heroin use and amphetamine use after March 1999 (when heroin use began to fall)?
  3. Is there an inverse relationship between heroin use and amphetamine use after December 2000 (when the heroin shortage intensified)?
  4. Was there an inverse relationship between heroin and amphetamine use that only lasted while heroin use was falling (viz. between March 1999 and April 2002)?


The Bureau found that the answer to all four questions is 'no'.

Commenting on the findings, the director of the Bureau Dr Don Weatherburn said that there is no doubt that some heroin users responded to the heroin shortage by shifting from heroin to amphetamine use.

"The evidence from the Bureau's study, however, suggests that the shift was comparatively small".

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190; 0419-494-408; www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au