A new report looking at the usage, pricing and perceived purity of illegal substances, namely cocaine, ketamine, cannabis, LSD, methamphetamine, ecstasy, nitrous oxide and amyl, reveals just how Australians have been handling 2022.
Released annually since 2003, the Australian Drug Trends 2022 report, from The University of New South Wales’ National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, gives readers a clear outline of the waxing and waning drug trends over the last couple of decades, as well as risk behaviours, mental illness and sexual habits of its participants.
It’s important to note, however, that while the report does demonstrate interesting trends in price and usage across the last 20 years, it isn’t representative of everyone who uses illicit drugs or the general population.
In saying that, the study recruited participants around Australia– found through online advertising, print advertisements and word of mouth – that had previously used ecstasy or other illegal substances before. On average, they were 25-years-old (the youngest participant 20 and the oldest 31).
While it comes as no surprise that weed (both therapeutic and nontherapeutic) was the drug of choice for most participants (at 24 percent), it was closely followed by ecstasy (at 22 percent) and cocaine (at 17 percent), the highest usage of the white powder ever recorded since the commencement of the study in 2003.
Here’s the breakdown of Australia’s drug use in 2022:
Ecstasy came out on top regarding usage, with nine out of ten (88 percent) participants saying that they used the drug in the past six months.
Surprisingly, this was a decrease from 2021 (95 percent). It was also the lowest percentage that’s occurred since 2003, pointing to the popularity of ecstasy being on the down-and-out. This was especially true for Sydney and Canberra.
Caps were the most popular form of the drug, with the average pricing at about $25 per cap. The participants' perceived purity also changed from 2021, with the majority believing their drugs to be of “medium” purity rather than “high” (like the previous year).
However, getting one's hands on capsules proved difficult for some users out there. 40 percent reported that it was “difficult” (22 percent in 2021) and 11percent “very difficult” (4 percent in 2021). With fewer people reporting that it was “easy” (from 47 percent in 2021 to 3 percent in 2022).
When it came to cannabis, 79 percent of people reported using the drug in the past 6 months, a significant decrease from 2021 (84 percent) which was largely driven by Sydney users. Per ounce, non-Prescribed hydroponic cannabis was priced around $300, while non prescribed bush bud sat at $250.
While figures were stable from 2021 to 2022 on the potency of hydro being perceived as “high”, bush bud went from the belief that it was “medium” potency to “low”.
Most participants found both versions of the green stuff to be “easy” or “very easy” to obtain.
So if cannabis and ecstasy use are decreasing, where’s everyone getting their high? Well, from cocaine and ketamine (we’ll get to ketamine, later). Over the last few years, cocaine use has gradually increased – and in the past six months 79 percent of people said they had used the innocuous white dust. However, Canberra saw a significant decrease in use from 2021, down from 91 percent to 76 percent.
The median price was about $350 per gram, and perceived purity was reported either “low” (30 percent of participants) or “medium” (also 30 percent), which, honestly, is probably about right considering most of the coke in Australia isn’t actually coke.
The majority of people (45 percent) found coke “easy” to obtain with 34 percent reporting that it was “very easy”.
Methamphetamine has been on a decline since 2003, with 84 percent of participants reporting use in 2003 compared to 31 percent in 2022. However, it’s still a jump up from 2021 (26 percent). This was most noticeable in Sydneysiders, who went from 15 percent to 29 percent in the 12 months from 2021 to 2022.
KETAMINE AND LSD
Ketamine, like coke, has also seen a steady increase since 2009. In 2022, almost half of participants reported having used it (49 percent). Use remained pretty much the same across all cities from 2021, except for Sydney, which decreased 20 percent (76 percent to 56 percent).
Per gram, ketamine cost about $200 – with 55 percent of participants believing it to be “high” in purity and also “easy” to obtain (43 percent).
LSD use increased from 2003 to 2016, but has remained pretty stable since then. However, less people are using it compared to last year, down from 53 percent to 46 percent.
It was about $25 on average for a tab, perceived as high quality, at 60 percent, and thought to be “easy” to obtain (44 percent).
AMYL NITRATE AND NITROUS OXIDE
The report doesn’t provide much info on these two since they are not technically illegal – but while 45 percent of participants said they used nangs in the past 6 months, 40 percent of people said they had used amyl.