Supply changes in Australia’s ecstasy market: A re-emerging market?

M.J.A. O’Reilly1*, C.E. Hughes1, J. Chalmers1

1 University of New South Wales, Australia

*corresponding author:

Background. Following a worldwide shortage of ecstasy in the late-2000s, there is evidence of supply resurgence in Europe (the main source of ecstasy to the world) and high purity non-tablet forms have become more available (e.g. powder or crystal). This research examined trends in Australian ecstasy supply between 2002 and 2014 to explore whether, in-line with the European market, there is evidence of resurging or changing supply in Australia since 2013.

Methods. Two unpublished data sets were obtained: unit-record data from Department of Immigration and Border Protection on border detections (seizures) of ecstasy, and ecstasy purity data from Victoria Police Forensic Services Department, between 2002 and 2014. Six proxies of supply were compiled: (1) annual total weight, (2) weight distribution; (3) form; (4) embarkation point; (5) importation method; (6) purity by form. Analyses examined broad trends (‘2002 to 2014’), then compared ‘2013 to 2014’ to a prior period of perceived peak supply in Australia (‘2002 to 2004’).

Results. In ‘2013 to 2014’, the total weight of ecstasy border detections increased relative to the Australian shortage period. This remained true even when the heaviest three detections per year (i.e. potential outliers) were excluded from analysis. But levels were lower than in the previous peak period of supply: ‘2002 to 2004’. More significantly, in ‘2013 to 2014’, 89.2% of border detections by weight were in powder form compared to 85.5% being in tablet form pre-shortage. Police data showed that non-tablet forms had a higher average purity than tablets, particularly in ‘2013 to 2014’, but tablets were still widespread during this period.

Conclusions. Findings indicate early signs of resurgence in Australian ecstasy supply. Both tablet and non-tablet forms are now available. The increased availability of higher purity forms may lead to increased ecstasy demand, use and/or related harms.


Matthew is a PhD candidate at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW, Australia. His current research area is a mix between criminology and drug policy, with a focus on how high level drug traffickers operate within Australia. Prior to beginning a PhD, Matthew completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, also at UNSW, and worked for two years as a research assistant. Research areas included forensic, clinical and perceptual psychology.