Methamphetamine (ice) abuse may have featured heavily in the media of late, but new statistics released by BOCSAR show that cocaine use is rising at an even greater rate.
The latest crime report, which discusses crime trends in New South Wales between July 2013 and June 2015, shows that possession and use of cocaine has increased by 47.2% during the period, with the number of recorded criminal incidents skyrocketing from 1,071 over the 12 months to June 2014 to 1,576 over the 12 months to June 2015.
In comparison – and in contrast to the picture which is so often painted by the media – amphetamine possession or use has risen by 38.1%. Meanwhile, possession or use of narcotics has risen by 10.1%, and cannabis use or possession has increased by 7.4%.
Despite this, dealing or trafficking in cocaine has remained relatively stable, and drug importation has in fact decreased.
Cocaine Use in Pubs and Clubs ‘Widespread’
The release of the statistics follows widespread reports that cocaine is being used regularly in pubs and clubs across New South Wales.
A survey conducted by the Daily Telegraph in July found traces of cocaine in 20 out of 25 licensed premises that were tested using Wipetech Drug Screen devices.
Additional BOCSAR statistics show that drug offences in licensed premises have increased by 35% over the past five years. Possession of cocaine in licensed venues has increased by 87.5% during the same period – a significant increase when compared to other drugs such as ecstasy (up by 22%) and amphetamines (up 11%).
The study found that men in the 20 to 29 age bracket are the biggest users of cocaine – despite the common misconception that cocaine is the drug of choice for wealthy, middle-aged professionals.
In July this year, the iconic Imperial Hotel in Erskineville was closed for 72 hours after police found bar staff and patrons openly using drugs. It was the second closure order that the venue received due to drug-related activities.
The pub was recently sold for $6.5 million, with its new owners promising to improve its reputation.
Bondi Socialite Busted
With cocaine use on the rise, police have promised to ramp up efforts to bust those who use or supply the drug.
Last week, Bondi model and fashion entrepreneur George Gerges was one of nine people named as running a sophisticated cocaine syndicate, which involved selling the drug across Sydney.
Police searched a several properties across Sydney last week, finding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine, MDMA, cannabis and even firearms. A large amount of money believed to be proceeds of crime was also seized.
Gerges is alleged to have supplied 941.9 grams of cocaine over a three month period.
This amount falls just within the range of supplying a ‘commercial quantity,’ which attracts a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and/or a $385,000 fine.
It is alleged that Mr Gerges also supplied a large amount of steroids. He appeared in Newtown Local Court last week, where he did not apply for bail.
Strike Force Morti was established earlier this year to investigate drug supply in Sydney. It was famously involved in nabbing high-flying DPP lawyer Lisa Munro for cocaine possession in July.
New Treatment the Key to Addiction
With cocaine reportedly on the rise, news of a possible new treatment to help with addiction has been welcomed by drug treatment professionals.
A research team led by American and Australian universities announced earlier this year that they had discovered an immune receptor that increased the addictive properties of certain drugs such as morphine and cocaine. The team found that when cocaine was combined with naloxone it did not bind to the immune receptor, and therefore failed to activate the ‘reward areas of the brain.’
The team hopes that its discovery will pave the way to treating cocaine and other drug addictions.