Methamphetamine prices increased and frequency of use decreased in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to study findings published in Addiction.
Researchers from Burnet Institute in Australia collected data from the VMAX study.
Individuals who reported use of methamphetamines were asked about price and patterns of use prior to and during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data from 185 and 277 participants were included in the price and use analyses, respectively.
The price and use cohorts had a mean age of 36.65 (SD, 9.61) and 35.77 (SD, 9.72) years; and 60.54% and 62.82% were men, respectively.
In time-varying analyses, weekly income significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with prepandemic levels in both the price and use cohorts (both P <.001).
The overall price of methamphetamine was AUS$409 (SD, AUS$226) per gram. Stratified by time, the pre-COVID-19 price per gram was AUS$338; the price during lockdown 1 was AUS$322; after lockdown 1 was AUS$445; during lockdown 2 was AUS$681; and after lockdown 2 was AUS$506.
The relative price per gram of methamphetamine significantly increased compared with pre-COVID-19 prices after lockdown 1 (b, 158.20; P =.001), during lockdown 2 (b, 456.51; P <.001), and after lockdown 2 (b, 263.68; P <.001).
The overall methamphetamine use frequency was 2.58 (SD, 2.77) days in the previous week. Stratified by time, pre-COVID-19 weekly use was 2.84 days, use during lockdown 1 was 2.06 days, after lockdown 1 was 2.41 days, during lockdown 2 was 2.06 days, and after lockdown 2 was 1.87 days.
Significant predictors for methamphetamine use included weekly income greater than AUD$600 (relative risk [RR], 1.28; P <.001), time in study (RR, 0.95; P =.013), status of “employed” (RR, 0.87; P =.035), recruitment in Melbourne (RR, 0.76; P <.001), during lockdown 2 (RR, 0.76; P =.006), after lockdown 2 (RR, 0.70; P =.001), and during lockdown 1 (RR, 0.46; P =.005).
While there were no changes observed in alcohol use patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic, tobacco use decreased during (RR, 0.86; P =.003) and after (RR, 0.78; P <.001) lockdown 2, as well as use of other illicit drugs after lockdown 2 (RR, 0.71; P =.024).
Study limitations included the small sample size and the number of interviews conducted.
Study authors concluded, “Our study highlights how COVID-19 public health measures in Victoria, Australia were associated with profound changes in the methamphetamine market. Methamphetamine prices increased, most markedly in regional Victoria, where methamphetamine use frequency among the cohort decreased. Despite a decline in prices after measures were relaxed, these changes in methamphetamine use frequency were sustained and did not appear to be offset by switches to other drugs, illicit or licit.”
Disclosure: Some study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.
Rathanayake K, Agius PA, Ward B, et al. The impacts of COVID-19 measures on drug markets and drug use among a cohort of people who use methamphetamine in Victoria, Australia. Addiction. Published online March 14, 2023. doi:10.1111/add.16189