A program to test what makes up Australia’s sewage has produced some deep insights into the drug habits, both legal and illicit, of a nation.
The analysis of the sewerage system finds that Australians are taking illegal drugs on a scale that challenges the rest of the world.
Fifty-one sewerage system sites, 22 in capital cities and 29 in regional Australia, were tested in 2016 for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission by the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia.
The program found that highly addictive methamphetamine, or ice, is the most consumed illicit drug, with Western Australia using twice as much as the rest of the country.
However, alcohol and tobacco are still the most consumed drugs in all states and territories.
The research found that the national average consumption of alcohol per 1000 people per day is 1200 standard drinks and for tobacco 1400 cigarettes per 1000 people each day.
The numbers indicate Australians have on average a bit more than one standard drink and a bit more than one cigarette each a day.
And the Northern Territory is the centre for both heavy smoking and drinking.
The chart below shows how the states and territories compare for alcohol consumption. It suggests that of the capital cities, Sydney has the highest rate of alcohol consumption, followed by Hobart and then Brisbane.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, adult Australians have on average two standard alcoholic drinks each day.
However, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education says that more than 1.9 million Australians drink on average more than six standard drinks a day, or three times the amount outlined in the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health risks from Drinking Alcohol.
WHO (World Health Organisation) statistics show that Estonia has the highest per capita intake at almost 15 litres of pure alcohol a year compared to almost 10 litres in Australia (rating it 22nd in he world).
And the trend is downwards in Australia, according to industry analysts IBISworld, which expects total alcohol consumption per capita to drop by 0.8 of a percentage point in 2016-17 to 9.37 litres.
That rate of consumption indicated by the sewerage system study is well behind European countries, with Australia sitting within the mid to low range.
Here’s how Australia compares:
And here’s how Australia compares to tobacco consumption:
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