A five-state compartment model of trends in illicit drug use in Australia is parameterized using data from multiple sources. The model reproduces historical prevalence and supports what-if analyses under the assumption that past trajectories of drug escalation and desistance persist. For fixed initiation, the system has a unique stable equilibrium. The chief qualitative finding is that even though some users escalate rapidly, regular injection drug use still adjusts to changes in incidence with considerable inertia and delay. This has important policy implications, e.g., concerning the timing of reductions in drug-related social cost generated by interventions that reduce the social cost per injection user versus those that cut drug initiation.