Report from: Harmaceuticals: special forum on fentanyl injection and overdoses

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid often prescribed for severe pain via a slow-release patch. Fentanyl can also be extracted from patches and injected.

Anex convened a special “Harmaceuticals” forum in Wodonga on August 21, 2012 following reports of overdoses and harm involving injection of material extracted from fentanyl patches in the Albury-Wodonga and Wagga Wagga areas.

The forum involved 72 participants from across the drug use harm minimisation spectrum. It included representatives of law enforcement (NSW), ambulance services, General Practitioners, addiction management, pain management, Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) staff, people prescribing and dispensing pharmacotherapy, alcohol and drug treatment, Justice, Aboriginal health, youth services and mental health services. The Hume Medicare Local was also represented.

The forum heard that there have been concerns within some elements of health departments that discussion of fentanyl’s misuse potential could lead to some people becoming aware of it and then attempting to misuse it.

There was a strong view amongst the participants that the matter should be raised and addressed, particularly with regards to formulating public health messages based on harm reduction principles for the benefit of injecting drug users.

One health professional with direct experience with fentanyl injectors summed up the sentiment with:

I do not agree that we should not be talking about it. To me that is a bit like saying ‘don’t talk about alcohol in case anyone works out you can get drunk off it’.

A key recommendation from the forum was:

  • A comprehensive education and workforce development strategy be implemented to address fentanyl prescription and misuse, within the context of pharmaceutical drug misuse more generally. Immediately, to educate ‘frontline’ workers such as NSP and pharmacotherapy staff about fentanyl so that they understand it and are able to discuss it appropriately with clients.

The report on the special harmaceuticals forum, including recommendations, can be downloaded here.
Anex Fentanyl Forum Report – October 2012

Contact Anex if you have additional information or suggestions regarding fentanyl. Confidentiality will be respected.  Contact us on (03) 9486 6399 or email us at info@anex.org.au