The impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on drug purchasing behaviours of people who use methamphetamine in Victoria, Melbourne.
COVID-19 and associated social restrictions have had a profound impact on drug market behaviour. We examined these impacts on drug purchasing and use behaviours in the ‘VMAX’ cohort of people who use methamphetamine in Victoria, Australia. Data on methamphetamine purchase price, purchase quantity, methamphetamine use frequency and other drug use frequency were obtained from 226 VMAX participants who reported methamphetamine purchase after the onset of COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria (16/03/2020). Impacts of different phases of COVID-19 restrictions on methamphetamine price paid per gram and use frequency in Victoria were examined using an interrupted time series analysis, along with the impacts of a range of covariates. Methamphetamine price paid per gram increased significantly between lockdowns 1 and 2 (99 Australian dollars, AUD), during lockdown 2 (387AUD) and after lockdown 2 (174AUD) compared to pre-COVID measures (p-values: 0.035, <0.001 and <0.001 respectively). The impact of lockdown 2 was greatest in regional Victoria. Average days of methamphetamine use per week declined during lockdown 1 (0.77 days), during lockdown 2 (0.83 days) and after lockdown 2 (1.07 days) significantly (p-values: 0.025, 0.001 and <0.001 respectively). While there was no effect of rurality, participants who earned more than 600AUD per week consumed methamphetamine more frequently compared to those who earned less than 600AUD and no significant evidence of any corresponding changes in the frequency of use of alcohol or any other drugs.