Evaluating drug law enforcement interventions directed towards methamphetamine in Australia

Crime Drugs and alcohol Law Social issues Australia

This report presents a preliminary analysis comparing the costs and impacts different types of law enforcement have on methamphetamine use.

Methamphetamine belongs in the class of stimulant drugs referred to as Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS). The category of ATS includes ecstasy, amphetamine and methamphetamine. This research project concerned itself with the amphetamine and methamphetamine class and excluded ecstasy (and henceforth we use the generic term methamphetamine). In Australia, methamphetamine is available in three forms—powder, base and crystal. Methamphetamine is associated with significant harms and is an important drug policy priority. The National Amphetamine-Type Stimulants Strategy (2008–2011) articulates the following priority areas in relation to methamphetamine:

  • improve community awareness and understanding of amphetamine-type stimulant use and related problems;
  • reduce the supply of amphetamine-type stimulants;
  • develop specific strategies to prevent and reduce amphetamine type stimulant use; and
  • develop organisational and system capacity to prevent and respond to amphetamine-type stimulant problems

This research concerns the second priority area—reducing the supply of methamphetamine. The specific aims of the research were twofold:

  • to provide a rich description of the Australian methamphetamine supply chains in order to inform drug law enforcement interventions; and
  • to conduct an initial economic evaluation comparing law enforcement interventions directed at the methamphetamine market.

The work focused on the methamphetamine market(s) and supply chains in Australia above the retail level. Previous research has examined retail methamphetamine markets in Australia.

Governments and policymakers are interested in determining which interventions are more or less effective than others, such that the scarce funding resources can be allocated in the most efficient manner possible. There is scant research available to law enforcement to guide such decisions. The main impediments to such research are the fundamental methodological challenges inherent in such an undertaking. This project is an attempt to conduct a preliminary analysis comparing the costs and impacts of different types of law enforcement. It is a ground-breaking study as this has not been previously attempted and it should be seen as the initial development of a methodological approach that can be improved upon with subsequent research. The project aimed to determine the relative cost-to-impact ratios of different law enforcement strategies aimed at reducing methamphetamine production and distribution. In an environment focused on efficiency in resource allocation, it is hoped that this research will provide the impetus for further research on the effectiveness of drug law enforcement. As the results of such research accumulate, it is hoped that policymakers will be able to use the information to improve decision making on law enforcement investment.

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