New research scotches link between heroin drought and increased amphetamine use

The suspicion on the part of some experts that Australia's heroin drought has led to an increase in amphetamine use in the last decade, has been scotched by the latest research from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The Bureau conducted a statistical analysis of trends in arrests and overdoses for heroin and amphetamine use designed to assess whether a long-term inverse relationship between heroin use and amphetamine occurred when heroin use began to fall.

The research between September 2002 and March 2007 looked at the number of arrests and hospital admissions for amphetamine type substance (ATS ) use in NSW and found it rose by 139 per cent in the five years that heroin use has fallen.

The bureau's director, Dr.Don Weatherburn, says a detailed look at the two sets of figures show they are not linked as the majority of people using amphetamines were not previously heroin users, but were new entrants to the drug market, drawn in because of the stimulating qualities of amphetamines.

This challenges the theory that police may have unintentionally caused the rise in ATS use when they reduced the supply of heroin.

Dr. Weatherburn says previous studies which did find a link were too small and based only on interviews with a certain type of drug user and this latest research debunks the theory that rising amphetamine use is an unintended consequence of tackling heroin.

Dr. Weatherburn says it is reassuring to find a scarcity of heroin does not exacerbate another drug problem, such as amphetamines use.

He says there will still be an amphetamine problem which has worsened since the late 90s.

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