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Methamphetamine in Perth: perspectives from DUMA police detainees

21 Dec 2015

Methamphetamine is of national concern,  but what does this statement mean to frontline police officers?

Methamphetamine is of national concern (ACC 2014), but what does this statement mean to frontline police officers? In real terms it means that frontline police are required, on an increasingly frequent basis, to engage with methamphetamine users. This presents a number of challenges to police. First, methamphetamine intoxication and withdrawal can impede an individual’s ability to follow police directions. Second, use is associated with behavioural and psychological disturbances, including aggression, which can increase the risk of harm for the police and members of the community. Third, the user is at increased risk of serious physical harms when in custody due to the effects of intoxication or withdrawal. These risks may be exacerbated by physical exertion during interactions with police or due to use of restraint by police. Being armed with information about what methamphetamine is, the nature and extent of use of methamphetamine among Perth police detainees, and details of the Perth methamphetamine market can assist police to identify risks to themselves and others.

he Australian Institute of Criminology’s (AIC) Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program interviews police detainees at selected police stations and watch houses across Australia on a quarterly basis. The Perth watch house is one of the DUMA data collection sites. Detainees present at the Perth watch house during data collection are asked to complete an interviewer-assisted self-report survey on their use of alcohol and other drugs and their offending habits. Urine samples are also requested twice a year during data collections. Urine samples are subjected to urinalysis at an independent toxicology laboratory to detect the presence of a number of licit and illicit drugs, including methamphetamine. Participation in DUMA is voluntary and confidential. Since the program commenced in 1999, 52,859 detainees have been interviewed and 37,774 urine samples have been collected nationally. The data presented in this report was collected during Quarter 1 (January) and Quarter 2 (April) of 2015 at the Perth watch house.

In 2015, 1,111 police detainees were interviewed in Perth. They were, on average, 32 years of age. The majority of detainees interviewed were male (approximately 80%), which is representative of the gender composition of the overall Australian detainee population.

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