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The Geography of Illicit Drug Consumption & Implications for Workplace Drug Testing

Updated: May 1

The Geography of Illicit Drug Consumption & Implications for workplace drug testing

According to the 2022–2023 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), an estimated 3.9 million (18%) people aged 14 and over in Australia had used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months. This level of usage has a potential impact on workplace safety and reinforces the importance of risk mitigation strategies such as workplace drug testing for organisations across the country.

Overall Prevalence:

The overall proportion of people using illicit drugs in the past year is similar across metropolitan and regional areas [aihw gov au]. In 2022-2023, it was 18.4% in major cities and ranged from 15.2% to 21% in regional and remote areas.

Let’s take a look at the data from the most recent National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (Report 21) to see if there are differences in the types of illicit drugs being consumed in our capital centres compared with our regional areas.

Type of Drugs by area:

Metropolitan Areas: Higher consumption of the following illicit drugs:

  • Cocaine – Average consumption of cocaine was higher in the capital cities, particularly Sydney. However, cocaine consumption has been increasing across many areas.

  • Heroin – Consumption was higher in capital cities, however regional Victoria is the exception.

  • Ketamin – Slighly higher consumption in capital cities than regional areas. A site in Darwin had the highest mean excretion nationally.

Regional Areas:

  • Cannabis consumption is variable across the country but generall higher in regional areas. Regional NSW, SA and QLD recorded the highest consumption levels across the country.

  • Methamphetamine consumption was generally higher in regional centres, especially in parts of Tasmania, Victoria and WA.

  • Oxycodone and fentanyl are prescription pharmaceutical opioids with abuse potential. The average consumption of both drugs was higher in regional Australia.

  • MDMA consumption was higher on average in regional areas, with consumption increasing in Hobart.


It is clear from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program’s most recent report that even though preferences may vary geographically, illicit drugs are used in our large urban centres as well as in our regional areas. It is not surprising then that illicit substances, with the potential to compromise an organisation’s safety and wellbeing, find their way into our workplaces - in big cities and smaller towns alike. One way workplaces can mitigate the risk of illicit drug use is through a program of regular workplace drug testing, supported by a comprehensive and robust policy and ongoing education and training.

DASA is a market leading provider of workplace drug testing services, as well policy development, training and education. We have an extensive network of collectors right across the country, from large urban centres to small country towns. With 16 years’ experience in the field, we have the expertise and resources necessary to support your workplace drug testing program.

Call us today on 1300 230 231 or email us at to see how DASA can help you manage the risks of illicit drug use in your workplace.


DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.



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