Evaluating Factors Responsible for the Heroin Shortage

Degenhardt, Louisa, Reuter, Peter, Collins, Linette and Hall, Wayne (2004). Evaluating Factors Responsible for the Heroin Shortage. In Louisa Degenhardt, Carolyn Day and Wayne Hall (Ed.), The Causes, Course and Consequences of the Heroin Shortage in Australia (pp. 48-65) Canberra ACT, Australia: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Author Degenhardt, Louisa
Reuter, Peter
Collins, Linette
Hall, Wayne
Title of chapter Evaluating Factors Responsible for the Heroin Shortage
Title of book The Causes, Course and Consequences of the Heroin Shortage in Australia
Place of Publication Canberra ACT, Australia
Publisher National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
Publication Year 2004
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
Year available 2004
Series NDARC Monographs; no. 53
ISBN 0642 474 273
Editor Louisa Degenhardt
Carolyn Day
Wayne Hall
Chapter number 5
Start page 48
End page 65
Total pages 8
Total chapters 11
Language eng
Subjects 111706 Epidemiology
Formatted Abstract/Summary
• It is likely that the shortage was due to some combination of factors that operated
synergistically to reduce the availability of heroin in Australia in 2001. This has been
suggested by many discussants of the reasons for the reduction in heroin supply.

• It is important to understand the market conditions that preceded the shortage. The
heroin market in the late 1990s was of an unprecedented scale, and given the scale of
the reduction in supply that occurred, it was likely to be in some way related to the

• In the early 1990s, drug Law enforcement (DLE) in Australia received little funding. This
probably made it easier for high level heroin suppliers in Asia (who may have needed to
offload heroin displaced from the US) to establish large scale importation networks into
the country. This led to the increase of street-based illicit drug markets around the
country; increased purity of heroin, and decreased price of the drug.

• The heroin market in Australia was well established by the late 1990s, but it had a low
profit margin, with high heroin purity, lower than ever before cost, and a large number of
seizures that had increased risk. The increased funding of the AFP and Customs as part of
the National Illicit Drug Strategy probably increased the risks associated with heroin
importation and therefore contributed to a reduction in heroin supply.

• The combination of low profits and increased success of law enforcement, probably led
to the reduced dependability of key suppliers of heroin to Australia. This occurred against
a backdrop of gradually declining production in South East Asia. These factors may have
reduced the attractiveness of Australia as a destination for heroin trafficking.

• It is possible that heroin was sent to other countries instead of Australia, such as Canada
or China, but the relatively small scale of the Australian market means that even if all
heroin was diverted from this country, it would be difficult to observe the effects in
another country given the larger scale of those markets.

• The heroin market is clearly still being supplied, but it seems to be more like previous
decades than late 1990s: smaller, less consistent levels of supply
Q-Index Code B1
Additional Notes ISSN: 1449-7476

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Created: Wed, 01 Apr 2009, 14:10:17 EST by Mary-Anne Marrington on behalf of School of Public Health