The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has backed calls for drug testing services to save lives at risk.
It comes following experts urging the Victorian Government to establish drug checking facilities to detect fentanyl and fentanyl analogs as well as a range of potentially deadly synthetic substances. Last year, the coroner recommended the Government adopt a checking system to tell users what substances their recreational drugs contained.
RACGP Alcohol and Other Drugs spokesperson Dr Hester Wilson said urgent action was needed.
“This common-sense measure will save lives,” she said.
“People using drugs, particularly opioid drugs such as heroin, are flying blind and risking their lives every day because no one can tell them whether what they are taking contains fentanyl, fentanyl analogs or other deadly substances. If it does contain fentanyl, two milligrams can be lethal depending on the person’s body size.
“There is no time to lose. Overseas, in countries like the United States, fentanyl is being added to a range of recreational drugs with devastating results. Australia must brace itself, because the Australian Federal Police has seized huge shipments of fentanyl entering Australia.
“As things stand, we only establish whether a batch of drugs contains other hazardous substances at morgues or police seizures after people have already overdosed. By setting up drug testing centres, people can learn what the drugs they are taking contain before it’s too late.
“The centres will not tell people that the drugs they are taking are safe. Instead, the testing will reveal what many people taking these drugs will be all too aware of – that they cannot trust what they are being sold and that they are playing a dangerous game. It’s a lottery as to whether the opioid drugs you have bought contain fentanyl, you simply will not be able to determine this until it’s too late.
“So, let’s get on the front foot, and act decisively to protect people in the community before the situation worsens. Fentanyl is arriving on our shores and, given how addictive this substance is, I fear that once it gains a foothold in Australia there will be no turning back. Every life matters and this reform will save lives.”
A recent report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre found that there were 1,788 drug-induced deaths Australia-wide in 2021, which is the equivalent of five drug-induced deaths every day. Natural and semi-synthetic pharmaceutical opioids including morphine and oxycodone are the primary opioids involved in overdose deaths, followed by heroin.
RACGP spokespeople are available for comment.
About the RACGP
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) was established in 1958 and is Australia’s peak general practice representative organisation.
The RACGP has more than 45,000 members working in or towards a career in general practice across metropolitan, regional, and rural areas of the country. Nine in every 10 GPs are with the RACGP.
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