The heroin drought in Australia in 2001 has caused a flurry of international comments about the reason for the drought and its effects.
The comments were based on a recent study by Degenhardt and others, which looked at the heroin drought.
The main states affected were New South Wales and Victoria which experienced a reduction in heroin overdoses and heroin related crime.
The suggested cause of the heroin drought is the attack on the supply of heroin by intensive law enforcement efforts.
Heroin users simply shifted their illicit drug use to cocaine when they could not obtain access to heroin.
Supply disruption of heroin led to an increase in the local price.
(Source: Addiction magazine, 2005, 100, pages 921-932)
Reduction of supply of illicit drugs does have a role to play. However, what the heroin drought indicates that if supply control is to be effective there must be a reduction in the demand for illicit drugs.
Illicit drug users when unable to access their normal drug simply shift their usage to other illicit drugs.
The international criminals that supply illicit drugs and substantially benefit from the millions of dollars continue to benefit because of the lack of reduction in demand for illicit drugs.
Therefore a key drug policy objective must be to substantially reduce the number of illicit drug users by directing them into detoxification and rehabilitation.
There was no increase in demand for voluntary detoxification and rehabilitation so the heroin drought was ineffective in reducing harm.