Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW Sydney, said the amount of opium in Australia was small.
“Mainly because it’s bulky so it’s harder to smuggle. People like to smuggle things that are concentrated and easier to conceal,” he said.
“You wouldn’t hear much about it. There would be a bit but it would probably go undetected.”
Use of opium in Sydney would likely be concentrated among particular ethnic communities where it is consumed using a pipe, as a cultural tradition, he said.
The substance can come in the form of a large block and lumps can be broken off to smoke. With more processing, it can also be consumed in a liquid form.
In Victorian times, the opium tincture laudanum was a popular medical treatment used as a painkiller and relaxant. Consumption declined in the early 1900s as authorities cracked down on opiates.
The drug also triggered the Opium Wars between China and Britain in the mid 1800s, conflict that revolved around trade and the Qing dynasty rulers’ attempt to stop British shipments of opium.
In a report released last month, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said there was a 37 per cent increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2020.
The total area under cultivation was approximately 224,000 hectares last year, among the highest ever recorded and up 61,000 hectares from 2019, the latest Afghanistan opium survey found.
There were 31 deaths involving opium in Australia between 1997 and 2019, according to NDARC data.
Mr David was refused bail to appear at Campbelltown Local Court on Thursday.
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