Imagine a drug 50 times more powerful than heroin and 80 times stronger than morphine. A drug so powerful that the smallest amount, just a few milligrams, is enough to kill you. Overseas it has already earned itself the street name, ‘Drop Dead’.
The drug is Fentanyl, a ‘Schedule 8’ synthetic opioid, and the Founder of Drug-Safe Communities, Michael White, is warning that it has the potential to sweep across Australia much like the methamphetamine ‘Ice’ has in recent years. It could become The Next Wave.
“Fentanyl is starting to make its presence felt in Australia – especially in the regional areas. Eight hundred people die each year from prescription drug overdoses and the toll is highest in the bush.”
In the small country town of Bairnsdale in Victoria a local pharmacist revealed that he knows of eight deaths attributed to this drug.
Fentanyl is a respiratory depressant drug which slows down messages between the brain and body, and when taken incorrectly can affect the ability to breathe. It is used for relief from chronic and severe pain. Major trauma, back injury and nerve damage patients are administered fentanyl. Slow release skin patches are often
used by cancer patients. Used legally, fentanyl is improving peoples’ quality of life.
However, there is a rapidly growing illegal market for this drug.
Michael White said fentanyl is becoming popular because it is easy to manufacture and it can make drug dealers a lot of money.
“Fentanyl has a massive multiplier effect. For example, when authorities overseas seized 63 kilograms of pure fentanyl they prevented 32 million doses from hitting the streets.”
“A fentanyl patch sold for a few dollars at a chemist can fetch a lot more on the streets. Users remove the fentanyl from the patch and inject it. They know that they can get the same number of hits from $100 of fentanyl as they would from say $400 worth of heroin”, added Mr White.
Mr White said small amounts of the drug can be smuggled in postage and the Department of Immigration & Border Protection has detected fentanyl in international mail on 30 occasions.
“Just how far people are willing to go to get high on fentanyl was demonstrated in a court case in Brisbane last year. A man who worked in hospital operating theatres allegedly replaced fentanyl needed for operations with syringes of saline. He injected himself with the drug then went back to work. Meanwhile, the patients in the operating theatres were left to undergo their surgeries without the pain killing anaesthetic.”
“We are used to hearing about Ice seizures and court cases in the media almost every week and studies by authorities in Australia into fentanyl have revealed that we might be on the crest of a very ugly wave. Whilst most prescriptions for fentanyl were issued to people aged over 80 it was people aged under 47 who accounted for three quarters of all fentanyl overdoses. And, 64 percent of people who died from fentanyl had not had it prescribed to them. This indicates misuse of the drug on a large scale.”
“I saw the comment from Victorian politician Fiona Patten MP who went to North America to learn more about the scourge of fentanyl. She said fentanyl is here, it’s coming and it’s killing.”
Mr White said recent media stories prove that Australia has become a big target for the importation of illicit drugs,
“In just over a month Australia recorded its biggest ever seizure of methamphetamines worth more than one billion dollars…three men were charged with allegedly planning to ship $250 million worth of Ice to Sydney…the brother in law of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim was charged with heading up a major cocaine syndicate which made $50,000 a week from their deals…close to one million dollars worth of cannabis plants were found on a property in country NSW…four men are facing charges over the discovery of 32 kilos of methamphetamines and $800,000 in cash…and our Navy operating in the West Indian Ocean has seized heroin and hashish from vessels worth a total of $900 million.”