19 October 2012
Australian illicit drug use changes when users are in party mode, with cocaine and ecstasy use soaring in the Christmas holidays, according to a snapshot of habits derived from analysing sewage.
Researchers analysed samples taken from the inlet of wastewater treatment plants at 3 different areas in south-east Queensland.
Consumption of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA) and methamphetamine was estimated in a large coastal urban area, an inland semi-rural area and an island with a small resident population predominantly populated by holidaymakers during the peak summer holiday period including Christmas and New Year.
The University of Queensland researchers showed that cannabis was the most commonly used ‘everyday’ drug at around 1000–2000mg/day per 1000 people.
Weekend use of cocaine was about 20–200mg /day per 1000 people and MDMA 5–50mg /day per 1000 people but this doubled in the holiday season in the urban and semi-rural area and at least tripled on the resort island.
During the holidays, cannabis consumption in the semi-rural area declined as did methamphetamine, whereas cocaine and ecstasy use increased.
In the urban area, consumption of all drugs increased during holidays. And in the vacation area, methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine use increased, but cannabis use decreased during holiday periods.
“While the peak holiday season in Australia is perceived as a period of increased drug use, this is not uniform across all drugs and areas,” they said.
The decline in cannabis use in the semi-rural area during the peak holiday season was an unexpected finding and may reflect the departure of many cannabis users to other areas, they said.
Last Reviewed: 19 October 2012