New South Wales consumed almost as much cocaine as all other states and territories combined while Victoria consumed close to half the country’s heroin, a new report has found.

Queensland also consumed more cannabis than any other part of the country, while Tasmania saw the biggest jump in MDMA use.

These are just some of the findings from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s (ACIC) latest wastewater drug monitoring report, which analysed sewage samples from 62 treatment plants across Australia.

The sampled sites cover more than half of Australia’s population and shed some light on what the illegal drug market looked like between August 2022 and 2023.

Before we dive deeper into the state-by-state data, a caveat: experts warned against placing too much stock in these estimates.

Some wastewater sites may not be representative of an entire city or region, they said, and the exact sites are kept anonymous.

With that in mind, here’s how the consumption of different drugs differed across the country.


Adelaide was the biggest per capita user of methamphetamine, but on average, more was consumed in regional areas than capital cities, the report found.

ACIC estimates an area’s per capita consumption based on “doses per 1,000 people” but some experts say these “doses” may not reflect what people actually use — so again, they advise treating this data with a bit of caution.

The amount of methamphetamine consumed increased in every single state and territory, ACIC said.

The highest increases were recorded in Western Australia and Tasmania, where consumption went up 40 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.


About 1.9 tonnes of cocaine was consumed in New South Wales, while the amount consumed in every other state and territory added up to 2.1 tonnes, ACIC found.

A site in Sydney recorded the country’s highest cocaine use per capita.

The largest increase was seen in WA, where cocaine consumption went up 55 per cent — however, this was from a much smaller base when compared to other states.

Tasmania was the only state where cocaine consumption did not increase in the last year. In fact, 16 per cent less cocaine was consumed.


Tasmanians consumed nearly double the amount of MDMA in 2022-2023 as they did in the previous year, according to ACIC.

An estimated 22.8 kilograms of MDMA was consumed in the state last year, up from 12.4 kilograms the year before – the biggest increase in the country.

The report said there were “notable” increases in MDMA consumption seen across Australia, except in the Northern Territory.

However, these increases are from a much lower base where small fluctuations in data might appear more significant than they are. Overall, MDMA still represents a very small part of Australia’s drug use.

The average per capita intake of MDMA was higher in regional Australia than in capital cities, but a site in Hobart had the highest per capita consumption in the country.


Victoria remained the country’s largest consumer of heroin, accounting for close to half of the amount consumed across Australia.

An estimated 456 kilograms were consumed in Victoria alone in 2022-2023, compared to about 544 kilograms consumed across the rest of the country.

On average capital cities tended to consume more heroin than regional areas — and Melbourne was the biggest per capita consumer, the report said.

Heroin consumption decreased in every state and territory except for the ACT, but ACIC’s principal drugs advisor Shane Neilson said it was normal for there to be small fluctuations from year to year.

“The heroin market will always be here but it doesn’t show substantial signs of expansion,” he said.


Queensland consumed 300 kilograms more cannabis than NSW, the report stated, despite being home to about 3 million fewer people.

Per capita, Sydney and Melbourne consumed less cannabis than other capital cities.

On average, the long-term cannabis intake was “substantially higher” in regional Australia than in capital cities, ACIC said.

It’s worth pointing out that some cannabis products can be used legally after Australia legalised medicinal cannabis in 2016.

But when it comes to illegal drugs, ACIC said cannabis was the most commonly-used illicit substance in every state and territory.

What does this tell us?

The data is designed to provide a window into the illicit drugs market across Australia and ACIC uses it to guide its research and activities.

Experts however have warned against using wastewater analysis alone to draw conclusions about Australia’s drug use.

Wastewater testing only estimates the overall consumption of drugs by weight. It does not tell us anything about who is using drugs, how many people are using drugs, and how much individuals are consuming, they said.

They also say specific areas should not be singled out for drug use and have warned against stigmatising individuals.

Many experts the ABC spoke to said drug use should be treated as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue.

“A health-based approach to drug use is needed to reduce the significant harm experienced by people who use drugs,” the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s knowledge manager Robert Taylor said.

“Treating drug use as a health issue can have many benefits for individuals, families and communities, including less drug use among problematic users, fewer drug related deaths and disease, and more people help-seeking.”

Steph Kershaw, a research fellow at The Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, said there was help available for people who use drugs, their families, and communities.

“It’s never too early or too late to seek support. It can take people some time to find the support that they need, but they aren’t alone,” she said.

“What we would really like to see is a lot more investment in this area and better access to care, particularly for those people in regional, rural, or disadvantaged communities.”