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Large-scale seizures of cocaine, heroin and amphetamine-type substances (ATS) do not result in any reduction in overdoses on these drugs or on arrests for use and possession of these drugs, according to this report.

Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the question of whether seizures of heroin, cocaine or amphetamine type substances (ATS) or supplier arrests for heroin, cocaine or ATS trafficking have any effect on the ED admissions related to or arrests for use and possession of these drugs.

Method: Two strategies were employed to answer the question. The first involved a time series analysis of the relationship between seizures, supplier arrests, emergency department (ED) admissions and use/possession arrests. The second involved an analysis of three specific operations identified by the NSW Crime Commission as has having had the potential to have affected the market for cocaine.

Results: Over the short term (i.e. up to four months), increases in the intensity of high-level drug law enforcement (as measured by seizures and supplier arrests) directed at ATS, cocaine and heroin did not appear to have any suppression effect on ED admissions relating to ATS, cocaine and heroin, or on arrests for use and/or possession of these drugs. The three major operations dealing with cocaine listed by the NSW Crime Commission as significant (Operation Balmoral Athens, Operation Tempest and Operation Collage) did exert a suppression effect on arrests for use and possession of cocaine.

Conclusions: Increases in the quantities of ATS, cocaine and heroin drugs seized by law enforcement authorities are normally a signal of increased rather than reduced supply. Very large seizures, however, may temporarily suppress consumption of these drugs. Even if drug seizures and drug supplier arrests have no short term effects on ED admissions and arrests for drug use and/or possession, they may still suppress drug consumption through risk compensation.

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