- Fentanyl was famously linked to the death of American musician Prince in 2016
- Some fentanyl users in Philadelphia are so badly affected by it they’ve been compared to ‘zombies’
One very disturbing photo has set out the stark reality of a drug that could soon ‘annihilate’ Australia as it has done in the US, where it’s been called a ‘killer epidemic’.
The zombie drug
The picture shows users of fentanyl – an opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine – in Philadelphia so badly affected they’ve been compared to ‘zombies’.
Fentanyl is prescribed for illnesses such as chronic pain, cancer and surgery, but is increasingly used by addicts looking for a high and is sometimes cut with heroin.
This can lead to fatal consequences, most famously being linked to the death of American musician Prince in 2016.
Since 2019, the AFP has preventing 29kilograms – around 5.5million lethal doses – of fentanyl from being sold on Australian streets.
Eleven kilograms of that came in just one bust at the Port of Melbourne in December 2021 when AFP and Australian Border Force (ABF) officers seized more than 11kg of pure powdered fentanyl.
The shipment, sent from Canada, saw the drug crammed into military-grade ammunition boxes, with the police police slamming the attempt to bring it in.
The authorities fear what will happen if the illegal version of fentanyl gains a foothold in places such as Wagga Wagga and Dubbo in NSW, where the drug ice is already a major problem.
‘If non-pharmaceutical fentanyl gets into those rural areas, it’s going to annihilate them,’ Alex Caruana of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Association told news.com.au.
Fears of fentanyl
He said if Fentanyl does become prominently used, it will be at a huge cost to the government to fight it.
Mr Caruana said fentanyl is not just potentially lethal for those using it illegally, it can be very dangerous for the authorities who deal with it at the borders.
‘It’s well known that when fentanyl powder becomes airborne, people react to it differently,’ he said.
‘So you might only need to inhale a very small amount, I’m talking much less than a gram, for it to be lethal for you.’
In the two decades from 2001 to 2021, there were 833 deaths in Australia related to fentanyl, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation reported.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl (used in prescriptions) was caused 93 per cent of those deaths, four per cent were attributed to illegally produced fentanyl and three per cent to fentanyl mixed with other drugs, such as heroin.
The problem is much more advanced in the US, though, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting fentanyl played a significant role in 105,452 overdose deaths in 2022 alone.