Presenting author: Amy Peacock
Presenting author biography:
Dr Amy Peacock is an Associate Professor and Acting Deputy Director at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales. She is program lead for Drug Trends, an Australian drug monitoring system running for over twenty years.
Awareness of, and behavioural responses to, drug alerts among people who use drugs in Australia
Amy Peacock, Cate King, Raimondo Bruno, Monica Barratt, Nadine Ezard, Penny Hill, Mary Harrod, Jared Brown, Robert Page, Joel Keygan, Simon Lenton, Paul Dietze, Caroline Salom, Rachel Sutherland
Aim: 'Drug alerts' are public notices sharing urgent information about specific drugs carrying high risk of harm. Little is known about whether these alerts reach their target audience, and if such efforts are associated with increased harm reduction behaviour among those who may use the identified substance. The aims of this study were to assess awareness of, and responses to, drug alerts among Australians who use drugs.
Methods: Between April-August 2022, 700 people who use ecstasy and/or other illegal stimulants and 879 people who inject drugs recruited from capital cities completed an interview (including questions on drug alerts) for the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) and Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS), respectively.
Results: Half (49%) and one-quarter (27%) of the EDRS and IDRS samples were aware of a drug alert in the past 12 months, respectively. ‘Ecstasy/MDMA containing other drugs’ was the most commonly endorsed alert in the total EDRS sample (25%), and ‘heroin containing other drugs’ in the IDRS sample (16%). Those people engaged with health services and in other harm reduction behaviours were more likely to have seen a drug alert. Social media was the most common means of receiving alerts among EDRS participants (65%), and in person among IDRS participants (63%). Of those that had seen an alert in both samples, approximately one quarter adopted additional harm reduction behaviours, nearly half shared the alert with others and less than one in ten tried to obtain the drug referenced in the alert.
Conclusion: A significant minority of people who use drugs in Australia are aware of drug alerts. Greater engagement in harm reduction behaviour and information sharing are positive outcomes. Critical to expansion of these systems is evaluation to ensure that the needs of people who use drugs are being met in such dissemination.