Do drug seizures predict drug-related emergency department presentations or arrests for drug use and possession?

Wai-Yin Wan, Don Weatherburn, Grant Wardlaw, Vasileios Sarafidis, Grant Sara

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Direct evidence of the effect of drug seizures on drug use and drug-related harm is fairly sparse. The aim of this study was to see whether seizures of heroin, cocaine and ATS predict the number of people arrested for use and possession of these drugs and the number overdosing on them. Method: We examined the effect of seizure frequency and seizure weight on arrests for drug use and possession and on the frequency of drug overdose with autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) models. Granger causality tests were used to test for simultaneity. Results: Over the short term (i.e. up to 4 months), increases in the intensity of high-level drug law enforcement (as measured by seizure weight and frequency) directed at ATS, cocaine and heroin did not appear to have any suppression effect on emergency department (ED) presentations relating to ATS, cocaine and heroin, or on arrests for use and/or possession of these drugs. A significant negative contemporaneous relationship was found between the heroin seizure weight and arrests for use and/or possession of heroin. However no evidence emerged of a contemporaneous or lagged relationship between heroin seizures and heroin ED presentations. Conclusion: The balance of evidence suggests that, in the Australian context, increases in the monthly seizure frequency and quantity of ATS, cocaine and heroin are signals of increased rather than reduced supply.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74 - 81
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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