Author Jessie Holmes
Published August 2010
Report Type Bureau Brief No. 52
Subject Drugs and Drug Courts
Keywords narcotics, cocaine, heroin, possession, use, illicit drugs

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To describe trends in possession and use of narcotics and cocaine, characteristics of these offences and offenders, and court outcomes for those charged with possession and/or use of narcotics or cocaine.


Descriptive analyses were conducted on data sourced from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research’s police recorded criminal incident and person of interest databases as well as from the NSW Reoffending Database and NSW Local Criminal Courts. Data from NSW Health on recorded opioid and cocaine overdoses was also analysed.


Recorded incidents of narcotics possession and opioid overdoses fell sharply between 1999 and 2006. Since 2006 both narcotics possession and opioid overdoses doubled, however their levels are still much lower than those recorded prior to the heroin shortage. Recorded incidents of cocaine possession and overdoses have been increasing since 2003 and in 2009, both reached their highest levels in 15 years. Narcotics possession incidents were generally detected on streets and footpaths and at residential premises within Sydney’s CBD and in the Fairfield and Liverpool Local Government Areas. Cocaine possession incidents were detected on streets and footpaths, and at licensed and residential premises, located in Sydney’s CBD and the Eastern Suburbs. Narcotics and cocaine possession offenders tended to be males aged 20 to 39 years. Almost all offenders convicted of narcotics possession had prior convictions (93%) compared with less than half of those convicted of cocaine possession (49%). Most offenders convicted of these offences in 2008 were issued with fines averaging $355 for narcotics possession and $406 for cocaine possession.


Taking into account data from other sources, these results suggest that actual levels of narcotics and cocaine use are increasing in NSW.

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