Use of methylamphetamine is gradually increasing, according to wastewater analysis (Photo: QPS)

March 13, 2024

Cocaine use in Brisbane and regional Queensland has spiked to the highest levels recorded in seven years, according to research led by the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia.

Commissioned by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the latest findings of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program showed increased use of heroin and cocaine in Brisbane compared with previous years.

Dr Ben Tscharke, from UQ, said samples from 62 wastewater sites nationwide were analysed in August 2023, representing 57 per cent of Australia’s population.

“Samples were analysed for key illicit drugs including methylamphetamine, cannabis, MDMA, cocaine and heroin, as well as some substances with abuse potential such as alcohol, nicotine, strong opioids, oxycodone and fentanyl,” Dr Tscharke said.

“There was a dramatic increase in cocaine use in Brisbane and regional Queensland in August 2023, the highest levels since wastewater was first monitored in 2016.

“Levels were more than three times higher than the data recorded in August 2022.

“This spike comes after a drop in substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic from late 2020 to mid-2022.

“While MDMA saw a similar drop during the pandemic, use of the substance has not returned to the same levels, however the use of methylamphetamine has gradually increased.”

Dr Tscharke said heroin consumption was also at its highest levels in Brisbane since it was first monitored in 2017 but use in regional Queensland was low compared to the national average.

A new contract has been signed to continue the wastewater analysis program for a further four years.


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