What you need to know about the super-strong drug that’s hit Australian streets 

You’ve probably heard of fentanyl, but have you heard of nitazenes? It’s a super-strong synthetic opioid that’s being detected more and more frequently in Australia.

While fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, nitazines can be 25 times stronger than fentanyl.

They’ve been linked to overdoses in Sydney and were detected in a drug sample in Canberra for the first time this past weekend.

If you’d like to know more about Nitazene – including what to do if someone you know takes it accidentally listen to today’s episode of The Briefing.

We asked Professor Suzanne Nielsen, deputy director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre at Monash University what makes nitazene so dangerous.

“Fentanyl was developed for medical use, and so there have been lots of studies on it – with nitazines, they didn’t progress to medical use. The early studies in the 1950s suggested that the safety profile wasn’t really ideal for using for pain relief. There were severe side effects, including respiratory depression…so it is that high potency that’s very concerning.”

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She said it’s likely the drug is being sold on Australian streets as something else.

“We’ve seen in other countries these drugs have been sold as oxycodone. Packaged up as falsified pharmaceuticals and so. You know, some of the situations that we see as people are attempting to buy pharmaceutical drugs online, they purchase these drugs that are packaged up to look like pharmaceuticals like oxycodone or pain medication. But when they’re tested, they actually contain potent opioid like nitrazines or a fentanyl or something that’s different to what the the person thought that they were purchasing.”

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