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Wastewater points to a resilience in Australia’s drug and alcohol consumption during COVID-19

Updated: May 24, 2022

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has released the latest report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program. If you aren’t familiar with this program, it collects and analyses Australia’s wastewater to determine what type of drugs and how much of them we are consuming. This 11th report is particularly interesting because of its timing. Given the sampling was conducted in April and June 2020, this report provides a good understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug use in Australia.

A summary of the key findings:

  • All drugs monitored under this program continued to be available in Australia during the pandemic, despite border closures.

  • Nicotine and alcohol remain the highest consumed drugs.

  • Methamphetamine remains the highest consumed illicit drug.

  • Due to COVID-19 restrictions, average alcohol consumption dropped in every capital city except Melbourne in April. However, once restrictions were lifted in June, alcohol consumption rebounded.

  • Alcohol consumption in regional areas was less impacted by COVID-19 restrictions than in capital cities.

  • Cannabis use remained high, despite higher prices.

  • During this period, there was record high consumption of methamphetamine and heroin in regional centres.

  • In capital cities, we saw record high consumption of cocaine, cannabis and nicotine.

  • In contrast, in regional centres, there was record low consumption of fentanyl and record low consumption of oxycodone in capital cities.

It would seem that rather than dampen drug and alcohol use, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen consumption increase. For workplaces then, drug and alcohol use remains a significant safety risk. Now more than ever, a robust drug and alcohol policy and a regular workplace drug & alcohol testing program would seem prudent.

If you need help with your drug and alcohol policy, or if you want to commence, or possibly resume workplace drug and alcohol testing, DASA can help. Get in touch via

Click the link below for the full National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report:


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