The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Border Drive have simply introduced the seizure of 11 kilograms of fentanyl in February – the biggest seizure of the drug in Australia’s historical past.
If this isn’t a one-off, it might imply that fentanyl use is changing into extra widespread in Australia, which has traditionally seen nearly no points with the potent and extremely addictive medicine within the unlawful drug commerce.
“It has truly been used for a very long time medically. When it comes to medical use there are some dangers however in recognized doses it’s much less of a priority,” says Professor Suzanne Nielsen, the Deputy Director on the Monash Habit Analysis Centre.
“However when the dose is unknown, and folks aren’t conscious that they’re taking fentanyl, then it may be extremely harmful.”
Fentanyl was created in 1959 and is used as a ache reliever just like morphine or oxycodone.
However in line with the CDC it’s as much as 50 instances stronger than heroin and 100 instances stronger than morphine. This elevated energy implies that individuals could be extra more likely to overdose if taking the fallacious quantity.
This has been an enormous situation in america, the place final 12 months there have been greater than 70,000 deaths brought on by fentanyl. That is very excessive in comparison with Australia, the place there have been simply over 1000 opioid deaths all collectively in 2020, and none brought on by fentanyl.
“We’ve truly been monitoring for fentanyl within the heroin market in Australia since 2017,” says Nielsen. “We haven’t seen any sign that there’s fentanyl out there.”
However she provides, “we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Learn extra: Humanity’s relationship with opioids
With this cargo of fentanyl being seized, and the drug posing a possible drawback on the horizon, researchers recommend crucial factor to do is ensuring that Australia has hurt minimisation methods in place.
“Have we received the entire methods in place? Are individuals conscious of the sorts of dangers that they must be enthusiastic about?” says Nielsen.
“We now have the instruments like Naloxone. We all know what works. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Hurt minimisation methods scale back the potential injury induced from dangerous exercise like drug taking. Hurt minimisation doesn’t condone drug use however suggests some methods can restrict the worst outcomes of drug use, like damage or demise.
Naloxone is a medication which might briefly reverse the results of an opioid overdose. In July the federal government began the “Take Dwelling Naloxone” program, the place the drug could be picked up at a pharmacy with out a prescription.
Nielsen stresses there’s a provide scarcity, so there isn’t sufficient for everybody to hold one round ‘simply in case’, however it is suggested for these who take opioid medication or know individuals who take them.
The second suggestion for hurt minimisation is drug testing. The ACT has just lately began a six-month pilot program for a set capsule and drug testing web site. It’s at the moment the one state or territory in Australia which supplies drug testing, regardless of international locations like New Zealand making it a everlasting, authorized, service final 12 months after a profitable 12-month trial.
Drug testing or checking permits individuals to establish the principle substances in medication. It additionally permits help staff to have the ability to discuss to the drug consumer to speak concerning the outcomes and dangers.
“With the ability to truly check what’s in medication is usually a actually efficient technique to save lots of lives,” says Nielsen.
One other proposed hurt minimisation technique requires extra long-term options. At the moment there aren’t sufficient drug rehabilitation locations in Australia and plenty of have lengthy wait lists.
Nielsen suggests we have to double the variety of beds accessible to deal with everybody who desires assist.
“Therapy is likely one of the only methods to save lots of lives but many individuals can’t afford it, or they will’t entry it of their native space, or they don’t wish to come ahead and entry it as a result of now we have a lot stigma round remedy.”
Misinformation is rife. Some police within the US are being educated to know that fentanyl is not going to trigger an overdose simply by being touched.
This straight contradicts the AFP, whose members wore biohazard fits to take away the powder within the operation “to guard towards any inadvertent pores and skin contact with the drug which might trigger hurt, lack of consciousness and even demise.”
“This is likely one of the most harmful myths that we’ve heard. You can’t overdose from fentanyl from simply touching it,” says Nielsen.
“Pharmaceutical corporations go to nice hassle to get fentanyl right into a format the place it may be transdermally absorbed in patches. It’s not straightforward to do.
“It looks as if there’s been mass hysteria round law enforcement officials and fentanyl.”