An analysis of drug seizure data: How illicit drug markets adapted to COVID-19 in Australia

Dr Sharyn Goudie1, Associate Professor Caitlin Hughes1, Dr R.V. Gundur1, Professor David Bright2

1Centre for Crime Policy and Research, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
2Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

Studies of illicit drug markets have long demonstrated the remarkable resilience of illicit drug players to adapt to market changes and law enforcement intervention. This resilience was put to the test as COVID-19 resulted in global lockdowns, including universal restrictions on air traffic. Australia has consistently had one of the highest rates of illicit drug use in the world and much of our drug trade is reliant upon overseas imports particularly from China, Mexico, USA and the Netherlands. As Australia put in place some of the strictest COVID-19 responses across the globe, it provides a unique perspective on how drug markets adapted and the strategies used to traffic drugs into and throughout Australia.

This paper maps and compares trends in illicit drug seizures between 2019 to 2021, based on over 140 Australian Federal Police press releases. Looking at number of seizures and quantities seized, by drug type, and other key variables (e.g. source countries, prices, weights and combinations of drugs seized), this presentation maps and compares drug seizure data from 2019 to 2021, providing a comparison of seizures in the year prior to the pandemic, the initial stages of the pandemic and then one year into living with COVID-19 as countries began to reopen. This presentation will outline the way methods, types, and sources of drugs trafficked changed in the lead up and throughout the ever changing COVID-19 environment. Providing important insights into new and evolving strategies and implications for drug policy responses.


Dr Sharyn Goudie is a Research Associate at Centre for Crime Policy and Research. Prior to academia, Sharyn has worked for fifteen years in the not-for-profit sector working with young people and those experiencing homelessness and mental ill-health and has a specific interest in social policy’s impact on vulnerable community groups. More recently, she has been involved in a number of projects analysing Australian drug supply and use: since COVID-19 and in regional Australia.


Dec 10 2021