The rise and rise of cocaine as a drug of abuse in NSW
Recently, the seizure by law enforcement officials of a spectacular amount of cocaine (more than 380kg, or a street value of approximately $144 million) in a small country town near Canberra is another reminder of the growing issue of this drug in NSW (1).
Cocaine is a much less commonly encountered drug in Australia overall. DASA regularly sees substantially greater numbers of methamphetamine positives in Australian workplaces than cocaine for example – but in NSW in particular, it is becoming more and more common.
The wastewater analysis from the National Crime and Intelligence Commission (mentioned in our previous newsletter) analyses the sewage plants across Australia, measuring the tiny amounts of drugs present in the wastewater flows from towns and cities across Australia. (You can read the most recent report for yourself (HERE).
The troubling thing about this report is how much NSW predominates the cocaine statistics. Of all the cocaine found in the sewage plants across Australia, nearly 60% comes from NSW alone. The average number of doses per person (ie the total amount found adjusted for the total population) shows NSW has up to 4 times the level of cocaine use per person compared to VIC. Or, remarkably, as much as 8-10 times the amount per person seen in WA.
While the popular perception may be that cocaine users are more likely to be found on a Hollywood movie about Wall Street than on the streets of NSW, the unfortunate reality is if you have a safety-sensitive workforce in NSW, increasingly we will have to consider the possibility of cocaine as a drug of concern for your workplace safety.
Cocaine workplace drug testing considerations:
a) Very reliably detected in oral fluid (saliva) drug testing – the window of detection is typically around 24 hours.
b) Cocaine has a very strong effect on safety – increased risk-taking behaviour, impulsiveness and elevated expectation of competency.
c) Post ‘high’ is the most dangerous time for workplace safety – exhaustion, paranoia, inability to concentrate at high levels. This period can last for 24 hours or longer.
d) Can also induce heart attack type symptoms (cocaine mediated cardiotoxicity) even in younger, fit and otherwise healthy populations.
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