Highest In The World: Half Of Aussie Drug Users Report Encounters With Police

From sniffer dogs to roadside drug tests, more than half of Australian drug users report an interaction with police.

Those are the findings from the 2019 Global Drug Survey, which also found Australia had the highest rate of reported police encounters than any other country.

In the past 12 months, the country's rate of police encounters of people who used drugs was 51.5 percent, closely followed by Denmark at 50.5 percent.

In contrast, New Zealand had one of the lowest rates (11.3 percent).

Australia was among four countries with the highest growth in drug detection dog encounters. PHOTO: AAP

More than 120,000 substance users worldwide were polled for the eighth annual survey, which pooled data from more than 30 countries.

Respondents skewed slightly more male (59 percent) and aged below 25 years old (57 percent).

Just over 52,000 users -- all who have used illicit drugs in the last year --  responded to questions on whether they had been stopped by police.

It found drug sniffer dogs were the most common form of policing, followed by stop and searches, police warnings and roadside drug testings.

While comparisons to surveys from previous years suggest drug detection dogs have increased in many countries -- the global average has risen from 9.5 percent to 14.7 percent -- Australia was among four countries with the highest growth.

READ MORE: Most Drug Dog Strip Searches Turn Up No Drugs, Figures Show

In recent times, dogs have come under scrutiny as an unfair policy, primarily based on data showing the high rate of 'false positives', leading to strip searches.

One 2011 study found the number of 'false positives' could be as high as 80 percent.

Figures released in August last year found strip searches following drug dog indications were on the rise in NSW.

Sniffer dogs are found to give false positives up to 80 percent of the time.

Recent research from the University of NSW also questioned the effectiveness of the state's drug dog detection program, introduced in its current form in 2001 to address crime "relating to the supply of prohibited drugs or plants".

Using data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Researcher, it found nearly 87 percent of incidents detected by drug dogs between June 2008 and June 2018 were for possession or use of drugs.

Less than five percent were for supply.

"It certainly very much calls into question whether drug dogs can achieve their aim: to target supply," study author Dr Caitlin Hughes told 10 daily at the time.

"This is meant to target supply, but it's 18 times more likely someone will be picked up for possession. It's really not a very effective use of resources."

The authors called on a change to the country's drug dog policies "to catch dealers, not low-level users at public events".

READ MORE: Drug Dogs Are Sniffing Out The Wrong Crims, Study Suggests

The Global Drug Survey, released on Thursday, also analysed attitudes to policing that remain "favourable" among most respondents, with 50 percent of respondents reporting being treated with dignity and respect.

But those with recent encounters said they'd experienced "less favourable attitudes", and said they were less likely to ask police for help.

Photo: Getty.

The report also found Australia had the highest use of prescription opioids (30 percent), followed by the U.S. (29 percent) and England (28 percent).

Of the 50 percent of respondents who reported getting high at least once, half did so on three or more occasions.

English-speaking countries also led the way in the survey for how often their citizens get drunk.

Australians reported getting drunk an average of 47 times over a 12-month period, slightly lower than Britons (51) and Americans (50).

In contrast, South Americans reported getting drunk on the lowest number of occasions -- just 16 times per year in Chile and Colombia.

Featured image: AAP