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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2004 Feb 7;73(2):189-97.

Adapting the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) to examine the feasibility of monitoring trends in the markets for 'party drugs'.

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National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia.


Since 1996, the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS), Australia's strategic early warning system for illicit drug trends, has monitored annual trends in the markets for the four main illicit drug classes, cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. In 2000, a 2-year trial was implemented to examine the feasibility of using similar methodology to monitor trends in the markets for 'party drugs'. A triangulation of three data sources was sought: (1) quantitative interviews with a 'sentinel' population of drug users; (2) qualitative interviews with key informants (KIs), or those who have contact with drug users through their work; (3) extant indicator data sources such as the purity of illicit drugs seized by law enforcement agencies. The results suggested that the feasibility of collecting detailed, reliable and valid data about party drug markets is a direct function of the size of those markets. The trial demonstrated that the system would allow the successful monitoring of markets for party drugs that are relatively widely used, such as ecstasy, but would be less sensitive in monitoring markets for party drugs that are used by small proportions of the total population, such as gamma-hydroxy-butyrate (GHB) and ketamine. Methodological issues encountered during the conduct of this trial are discussed, including defining the appropriate sentinel population of drug users, identifying relevant key informants, and the relative absence of extant indicator data sources that could inform our understanding of party drug markets.

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