Fentanyl is a potent drug with deadly effects.
Photo: Supplied But it is also a relatively new and untested drug.
It is being used in Australia to treat chronic pain, for example, and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) warns that more research is needed.
The drug is currently classified as a Class C drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse, with no medical value and no accepted use in Australia.
The most common side effects are pain and muscle pain, but there have been concerns about respiratory depression, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety.
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The NHMRC says that “the majority of fentanyl-related deaths have occurred within the past year, with a peak of between 0.2 and 0.6 per cent of deaths occurring in the first five years”.
The NHMC warns that “any use of fentanyl that is not medically appropriate for a specific patient should be considered illegal and the risk to public health should be appropriately mitigated”.
“Fentanyl is currently an untested substance that is still being developed and used by people in Australia and we should all be aware of the dangers of fentanyl and avoid using it in situations where it is most appropriate,” it says.
“It should not be used in circumstances where the risks to the individual and the community are highest, and it should be used as soon as possible to minimise any potential risk to the health of others.”
The NSW Medical Board says it does not advise anyone to use fentanyl for pain.
“Falling asleep or drinking too much alcohol can result in overdose.
There is no evidence that fentanyl is associated with overdose,” the NSW MBA said.
“There is a small but increasing body of evidence that opioid analgesics may have a potentially harmful effect on the cardiovascular system.
However, no scientific evidence is available to support that conclusion at this time.”
The New South Wales Police say they are taking fentanyl seriously, but that they do not know how much fentanyl is in a drug user’s system.
“The majority of people we have dealt with have not been taking fentanyl for any medical reason, and they have not consumed any amount of fentanyl over the past six months,” the police said.
The NSW MBL says they have no plans to ban the drug.
“We do not believe that there is a specific need to ban fentanyl in NSW,” the statement said.
It advises that users of other opioids should only take fentanyl if prescribed.
“Users of any opioid medication, whether it be morphine, codeine, oxycodone, morphine or codeine derivatives, should always seek medical advice prior to and/or during their opioid medication use.
If a person has taken opioids in the past, there is no need to seek medical assistance at this point in time,” it said.