Australian trends in drug user and drug dealer arrest rates: 1993 to 2006-07

David Bright, Alison Ritter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    There is a paucity of data available in a concise, accessible form that maps trends in illicit drug crime offences for different types of drugs. The aim of the current article was to collate data on arrests for illicit drugs, examine trends for the main illicit drug types, and explore some potential explanations for emergent trends. Trends for provider-type and consumer-type offences are reviewed in terms of the number of offences per year, and the proportion of total illicit drug offences for each year for each type of drug across the period 1993 to 2006-07. The main findings are: (a) substantially more users than dealers are arrested, (b) the stability of the ratio between consumer-type and provider-type arrests suggests a longstanding law enforcement focus on targeting drug users relative to drug dealers, (c) cannabis arrests consistently account for the greatest proportion of arrests, (d) the proportion of total provider-type arrests for cannabis decreased by 30% between 1993 and 2006-07, (e) heroin arrests peaked in 1998-1999, then declined rapidly around the time of the Australian heroin shortage, and have showed a decline since that time, and (f) arrests for amphetamine-type stimulants and phenethylamines have steadily increased between the early 1990s through to 2006-07. Potential explanations for trends in drug arrests are posited, such as changes in the prevalence of use and shifts in law enforcement focus. The methodological weaknesses of the data are summarized and areas for future research are suggested.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)190-201
    Number of pages12
    JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011


    • Crime
    • Data collection
    • Drug users
    • Law enforcement
    • Street drugs


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