Market assessment: HIGH with a stable market trend.
What is it?
Heroin is a highly addictive semi-synthetic opioid drug synthesised from morphine (derived from the opium poppy). The active ingredient in heroin, diacetylmorphine, is a painkiller from the opioid family. Heroin is often “cut” with other substances such as caffeine and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).
The heroin market in Queensland
- The heroin market in Queensland is small and remains concentrated in pockets of south-east Queensland, with the majority of heroin seizures occurring in the greater Brisbane region. Very little heroin is available outside the south-east corner of Queensland.
- Opioid pharmaceuticals, such as OxyContin®, fentanyl and morphine, are being used as substitutes in areas of the state where there is a lack of heroin.
- Cheap high-purity heroin sourced from Mexico and Columbia has become readily available in the United States in recent years. This has driven an increase in heroin use and a shift by some pharmaceutical users to heroin. There are indicators of some recent growth in the heroin market in Australia, particularly in New South Wales and Western Australia.
- If higher quality, cheaper heroin entered the Queensland market, there would likely be a significant expansion of the heroin market — with uptake by both traditional heroin users and illicit pharmaceutical users. Growth in the heroin market in Queensland may also be influenced by the availability of opioid pharmaceuticals.
Organised crime presence
- Australia’s geographic isolation, and the costs and complexities associated with importing heroin into Australia, contribute to the relatively high price of heroin in Australia compared to other international markets.
- Australian-Vietnamese organised crime groups continue to have a strong hold in the heroin market in Queensland, although there is evidence they are diversifying into other markets (such as methylamphetamine and cannabis).
- Internationally there is evidence that Chinese organised crime groups are forging partnerships with South American organised crime groups to traffic heroin (and other illicit) drugs into Australia.
What you should know
- Heroin is one of the most harmful illicit substances and is frequently associated with overdoses and deaths.
- Health effects associated with heroin use include: collapsed veins, tuberculosis, weakening of the immune system, and insomnia. Injecting drug users are the highest-risk group for acquiring hepatitis C, and are overrepresented among the HIV positive population due to risky needle sharing practices.
- Queensland is vulnerable to a resurgence in the availability and use of heroin. Close monitoring of the Queensland market, as well as interstate and international markets, is important to detect growth and changes in supply routes.
- There have been reports of ice addicts in New South Wales and Queensland using heroin to help with “coming down”.