Use of the destructive drug crystal methylamphetamine, or ice, has stabilised according to the latest analysis of the nation’s wastewater.
The nation’s capital and New South Wales showed small overall increases in ice use, while levels were down in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.
Regional Western Australia and South Australian cities recorded the highest ice levels.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s (ACIC) third report into traces of illegal drugs in wastewater also revealed MDMA usage has dropped, but abuse of prescription drugs remains a problem in regional Australia.
Fifty-four testing sites were chosen across the country, in both city and regional areas, for the third test of its kind.
The analysis picks up traces of 14 different drugs, and covered just over 60 per cent of the country’s population.
Shane Neilson from the ACIC said the use and abuse of prescription drugs was of particular concern in regional areas.
“We have concerns about the level of use of oxycodone and fentanyl,” he said.
“These are pharmaceutical opioids with abuse potential.
“What our concern is there is what we’re measuring is both licit and illicit, and there is a potential there for that to be diverted into the market.”
NSW and the ACT appear to have the highest usage of cocaine, with overall levels decreasing.
“There’s been a significant decrease in the second half of the year,” Mr Neilson said.
The ACT and Victoria also recorded high levels of heroin, while alcohol and nicotine usage appeared highest in the Northern Territory.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan argued police were successfully targeting more suppliers before their drugs hit the streets.
“Clearly we still have a very serious problem in Australia,” he said.
“We’ve been working to give our police the resources they need to find and lock up the criminals that peddle in this misery.”
He said authorities still needed to work on educating the public about the risks of drugs.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to be the case that we can declare victory in terms of substance abuse in Australia,” Mr Keenan said.
“Clearly we still have to get that message out, particularly to youngsters, that the abuse of illicit drugs is incredibly bad for them.”