Crime & prescription drug use in Australia

Research regarding the illicit use of prescription drugs in the Northern Territory and how this compares to other Australian states is the focus of the next presentation of Charles Darwin University’s Faculty of Education, Health and Science 2004 Seminar Program.

Dr Bridie O’Reilly will focus on a study regarding an exploration of the crime and policing implications of an illicit opiate market dominated by prescription morphine.

From the early 1990s, an atypical opiate market dominated by the illicit use of prescription morphine developed in Darwin - the only Australian jurisdiction in which methadone and other maintenance treatments were unavailable. This study examines the crime and policing implications of this unusual opiate market by comparing the drug use patterns and self-reported crime of injecting drug users in Darwin to a similar group in the heroin-dominated market of Sydney in 2000 and 2001.

In both years fewer Darwin injecting users had been arrested in the previous year and they engaged in comparatively less property and violent crime, less drug dealing and were less aware of police activity than their Sydney counterparts. The findings are discussed in relation to drug market characteristics, patterns of drug use and the importance of considering the various impacts of any regulatory strategies.

Following Dr O’Reilly, Fiona Leibrick will present a study regarding the relationship between benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opiate use and crime.

Drug monitoring systems have documented a consistent rise in the illicit use of both benzodiazepines and pharmaceutical opiates over the past five years. Areas where heroin has traditionally been more difficult to access, such as Tasmania and the Northern Territory, have usually reported higher levels of benzodiazepine and pharmaceutical opiate use (including the illicit diversion of pharmacotherapies).

Ms Leibrick will outline research commissioned by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund into the relationship between benzodiazepines and pharmaceutical opiate use and crime in three jurisdictions where there is evidence of emergent illicit markets: Northern Territory, Victoria and Tasmania.

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