Trends in cocaine use, markets and harms in Australia, 2003–2019

Nicola Man, Agata Chrzanowska, Olivia Price, Raimondo Bruno, Paul M. Dietze, Scott A. Sisson, Louisa Degenhardt, Caroline Salom, Leith Morris, Michael Farrell, Amy Peacock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: This paper aims to describe cocaine use, markets and harms in Australia from 2003 to 2019. Methods: Outcome indicators comprised prevalence of use from triennial household surveys; patterns of use from annual surveys of sentinel samples who use stimulants; and cocaine-related seizures, arrests, hospitalisations, deaths and treatment episodes. Bayesian autoregressive time-series analyses were conducted to estimate trend over time: Model 1, no change; Model 2, constant rate of change; and Model 3, change over time differing in rate after one change point. Results: Past-year population prevalence of use increased over time. The percentage reporting recent use in sentinel samples increased by 6.1% (95% credible interval [CrI95%] 1.2%,16.9%; Model 3) per year from around 2017 (48%) until the end of the series (2019: 67%). There was a constant annual increase in number of seizures (count ratio: 1.1, CrI95% 1.1,1.2) and arrests (1.2, CrI95% 1.1,1.2), and percentage reporting cocaine as easy to obtain in the sentinel samples (percent increase 1.2%, CrI95% 0.5%,1.8%; Model 2). Cocaine-related hospitalisation rate increased from 5.1 to 15.6 per 100 000 people from around 2011–2012 to 2017–2018: an annual increase of 1.3 per 100 000 people (CrI95% 0.8,1.8; Model 3). While the death rate was low (0.23 cocaine-related deaths per 100 000 people in 2018; Model 2), treatment episodes increased from 3.2 to 5.9 per 100 000 people from around 2016–2017 to 2017–2018: an annual increase of 2.9 per 100 000 people (CrI95% 1.6,3.7; Model 3). Discussion and Conclusions: Cocaine use, availability and harm have increased, concentrated in recent years, and accompanied by increased treatment engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)946-956
Number of pages11
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • cocaine
  • dependence
  • epidemiology
  • injecting drug use
  • stimulant

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