This study did not point to significant differences in the drugs used by Indigenous and non-Indigenous IDUs. However there are differences from place to place, and from time to time, in the injectable drugs most readily available and most commonly used. In various areas of Sydney, for example, the most commonly injected drug might be heroin, or speed, or methadone; heroin, for example, was reportedly much easier to obtain in some parts of town than others. 'Party drugs' were described as a significant part of the current Sydney scene. Amphetamines had traditionally been 'big' in Adelaide, and were thought to account for perhaps 75% of local injecting. In Melbourne the use of heroin and amphetamines was thought to be about equal at present. The drugs injected in Canberra were said to vary depending on what was available from time to time – eg ice, heroin, and pharmacotherapy drugs such as buprenorphine. Numbers of stakeholders described polydrug use as common.

Stakeholders consulted in the Top End reported relatively little use of heroin. Morphine (in some cases diverted from prescription use) and to a lesser extent amphetamines were identified as the drugs most commonly injected there – both by Indigenous and by non-Indigenous IDUs. Morphine was estimated to account for perhaps 50% of drug injecting in Darwin, and was said to be more popular with older, established drug users; amphetamines (possibly accounting for 40%) were more likely to be used by young people. In contrast to the southern capital cities, there was said to be 'no street-based drug culture' in Darwin, with injecting mostly occurring in people's homes and often involving a small group of friends or acquaintances.

In general, it was reported that illicit drugs – and heroin in particular – are more consistently available in the major cities than in smaller or more isolated population centres23. The point was made that drug injecting in a town such as Alice Springs, for example, tends to be sporadic or 'up and down' as drugs are more or less available. As one worker saw it, 'There's no regular drug scene here in Alice'. Given the irregularity of supply, drugs tended to be used very quickly when they were available: 'It goes pretty quick', said one IDU. Consistent with this, some said that Indigenous drug injecting was 'very ad hoc' and as a result more likely to be unsafe: 'They're not prepared for it' in the way that more consistent users might be. In Carnarvon – another isolated location - it was said that 'people party for a few days' when a drug shipment comes into town.

Some stakeholders consulted in the Northern Territory commented that drug injecting was 'hard to sustain' in the Territory because of the unreliability of drug supply and also because of the difficulty of keeping one's activities private in small communities – and within close-knit Aboriginal populations in particular. 'Sometimes it's more of a chore than anything else', said one worker.

Footnotes

23 In Carnarvon, for example, any heroin that was available was said to be costly and of poor quality ('We get the dregs'). Speed was easier to get and more cost-effective to use.