Experts call for pill testing after Nitazenes detected in Australia

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Experts are warning NSW is underprepared for a spike in overdose deaths after a potent synthetic opioid that is 300 times stronger than heroin was recently detected through pill testing.

The ACT’s pill testing service CanTEST issued a Red Alert after the detection of Nitazenes last week.

The synthetic opioids were first developed as painkillers in the 1950s but were never cleared for human consumption.

Advocates are now calling on the NSW government’s to immediately set up pill testing facilities as Nitazenes become more prevalent in the community, with the drug being far cheaper and easier to produce than heroin, and far deadlier.

It comes after a batch of Nitazene-laced heroin allegedly caused 20 overdoses in Western Sydney last month.

Medically Supervised Injecting Centre medical director Marianne Jauncey said pill testing was desperately needed to prevent overdoses and save lives by identifying drugs contaminated with Nitazenes and warning the community.

“If we’re not careful we’ll sleepwalk into a catastrophe,” Dr Jauncey said.

“What we’re looking at with Nitazenes are substances far, far stronger than fentanyl.

“The sheer potency and toxicity of these substances is hard to convey.

“Opioid overdose deaths have been going up year on year and Nitazenes are already causing severe overdoses in NSW.

“Is the government going to just wait until the number of deaths is overwhelming before they act?”

Unharm chief executive Will Tregoning said NSW Premier Chris Minns is abandoning his responsibility to keep people safe.

“NSW is on the brink of an unprecedented overdose crisis and Chris Minns is asleep at the wheel,” Dr Tregoning said.

“If urgent action is not taken in NSW we run the risk of being the next frontier in the global opioid crisis.

“The ACT’s pill testing service’s ability to detect the contaminated drugs and issue an alert will help keep the community safe. This is a capability we desperately need in NSW.”

RACGP Specific Interest Group Addiction Medicine deputy chair Marguerite Tracy said pill testing was “so important” to protect everybody.

“It is not possible to know for sure if a substance contains Nitazenes without testing, and they are known to cause severe overdose,” Dr Tracy said.

“I call on the state government to follow the lead of the ACT and Queensland and introduce drug testing services featuring fixed and mobile sites across the state.

“Until that happens, we can’t say we are doing everything possible to prevent drug overdoses.

“Drug testing is not about condoning drug use, it is a sensible harm reduction measure proven to save lives, including young people at events such as music festivals.”

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