DRUG 100 TIMES DEADLIER THAN HEROIN CAUSES SEVERE HEALTH RISKS IN AUSTRALIA

Harm Reduction Victoria has issued an urgent health alert after several Australians who purchased and consumed what they believed to be cocaine experienced severe adverse effects due to the presence of the synthetic opioid proto-nitazene. The effects included loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, and life-threatening hypoxia.

Variants of nitazene, which are comparable to fentanyl but often stronger and faster-acting, have been circulating in Australia over the past year, albeit at relatively low levels, according to a report from news.com.au.

"It has shown up in some cocaine supplies in Australia in recent times, which is an alarming trend," said Nick Kent, Harm Reduction Victoria's policy and advocacy manager.

This incident is the latest in a series of overdoses involving people who unknowingly consumed opioids. On June 25, four people were found dead in a Broadmeadows home in Melbourne, with a preliminary toxicology report indicating the presence of a synthetic opioid in their systems.

In late March, support workers in western Sydney reported approximately 20 drug overdoses over the Easter weekend, with the affected individuals, described as "seasoned heroin users," believing the drugs were laced with fentanyl. "They were telling me it happened very quickly, that people were going down very quick, and that it was taking multiple doses of naloxone to bring them back … anywhere up to five," a peer worker based in Penrith told the ABC.

Authorities in western Sydney were so concerned about the overdose cluster that they issued an urgent alert, urging those using illicit substances to carry naloxone, a medicine that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. In addition, a warning circulated on social media last month about the suspected presence of fentanyl in a batch of ketamine sold in inner-city Sydney. "This stuff seems to be in everything lately," one group posted on Instagram. "Be careful out there."

NSW Ambulance senior assistant commissioner Clare Beech told the ABC, "We're noticing that drug users are having experiences that they weren't expecting."

North America has been severely impacted by mass overdoses and deaths in recent years, both from the deliberate abuse of drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl and the increasing instances of illicit substances like cocaine and ketamine being laced with opioids.

According to the National Centre for Health Statistics, there were more than 107,000 fatal overdoses in the United States last year, with almost 75,000 caused by synthetic opioids.

According to Kent, organizations in Canada and the US are witnessing a significant presence of adulterant drugs in the drug supply. This issue affects a wide range of drug markets and poses a risk to various segments of society.

Australia has managed to avoid an opioid crisis similar to that in North America, thanks to several advantages, according to Shane Neilson from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). The country has learned from the experiences of the United States and maintains vigilance to prevent the involvement of organized crime in the drug supply market.

Prevention efforts have been successful in creating a different situation in Australia compared to other countries, Neilson said. The ACIC, in collaboration with universities, runs a wastewater drug monitoring program that provides insights into drug usage patterns.

Amber Meagher, director of drug data collection at the ACIC, noted that since 2018, there have been considerable decreases in fentanyl consumption, coinciding with the implementation of harm reduction and prevention measures.

However, higher fentanyl consumption has been observed in regional areas compared to major cities. Despite the success of harm reduction and prevention policies, Kent emphasises the need for vigilance and a wider societal conversation about drug management. He suggests scaling up harm reduction services and having difficult discussions to prevent a situation similar to that in North America.

Some states have introduced drug-checking services to ensure users consume their intended substances. Kent believes that Australia must be ready to have these conversations now to effectively address the issue and prevent a potential crisis.

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2024-07-09T07:33:47Z dg43tfdfdgfd