Heroin Shortages: The Australian Experience

In light of the heroin shortages currently being experienced in the U.K., I thought it might be timely to gather together some of the writings and research to come out of the Australian experience.

Australian illicit drug markets experienced a surge in availability of heroin in the late 1990’s leading to a glut in the market.  This over abundance of heroin lead to a dramatic decrease in prices and an increase in prevalence of use.  The glut ended towards the end of 2000. resulting in a rectification of the heroin market to pre-glut prices and availability.

Many commentators wrongfully identified this phenomena as a ‘heroin drought’ when in reality the change in availability was really a normalisation of the heroin market to pre – glut prices and availability.

Regardless of the lessons in black market economics, the fluctuations in the heroin market have undoubtedly lead to drug related harms.

A glut of heroin:

  • contributed to a significantly higher occurrence of overdose (At one point a local tabloid was regularly reporting the number of fatal heroin overdoses right next to the number road accident fatalities).
  • lead to the development of aggressive street markets in particular metropolitan areas resulting in harms to community.

Rectification of the market:

  • Is attributed as a cause for the increase in the injection of alternatives that poses significant risk to vein health such as Temazepam.

The links below are a selection of articles that capture the Australian experience of fluctuations in the Australian heroin market.

Changes in Heroin Availabilityin Sydney Australiain Early 2001

The Australian Heroin Droughtand its Implications for Drug Policy

The causes, course and consequences of theheroin shortage in Australia

The Impact Of The Australian Heroin Shortage On Robbery In NSW

The “lessons” of the Australian “heroin shortage”

Upheavals in the Australian drug market: heroin drought, stimulant flood


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