Use of the potentially-addictive painkillers oxycodone and
fentanyl is rising in regional Australia, the latest analysis of
drugs in the nations wastewater system shows.
The analysis of 54 wastewater sites by the Australian Criminal
Intelligence Commission found that while methylamphetamine,
commonly known as ice, remains Australias most commonly used
illegal drug, prescription opioid use in regional areas is
outstripping that in capital cities.
Consumption of oxycodone in regional sites was well above
capital city levels, with the regional national average being
almost double that of the capital cities, the commission said in
its third national wastewater drug monitoring program report
released on Thursday.
Regional Queensland and parts of Tasmania and Victoria had the
highest overall users of oxycodone, while in capital cities the
highest usage rates were in South Australia and Tasmania.
Usage patterns for fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to
100 times more potent than morphine, were similar, with regional
centres in almost every state recording values well above the
Except for a few sites, regional consumption was substantially
higher than capital city areas, the report said.
Medical experts have expressed concern in recent months that
more Australians are becoming addicted to pharmaceutical opioid
painkillers, following in the footsteps of America which is in the
grip of of an opioid epidemic that has caused tens of thousands of
The federal government announced last year that painkillers
containing codeine will no longer be available over the counter
from 2018, in response to growing concerns about addiction.
The commissions report noted that while oxycodone and fentanyl
are legally prescribed by doctors for intense pain, they do have
In terms of illicit drugs, the report found ice usage has
plateaued in the past year, while cocaine and ecstasy use appears
to be on the decline, possibly thanks to big drug busts by police
Ice remains the most common illegal drug in capital cities and
regional sites, with South Australia and Western Australia having
the highest usage rates, while NSW and the ACT recorded small
overall increases in usage.
However, use of ice in Queensland and Western Australia has
begun to fall from their historical highs in October 2016.NSW
recorded the highest amounts of cocaine and ecstasy use.
Unlike methylamphetamine, capital city areas on average had
higher cocaine use than regional centres, the report said.
Heroin was also included in the commissions analysis for the
first time, with usage rates highest in Victoria and the ACT.