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The Rise of Fentanyl

DASA: The Rise of Fentanyl

The rise of fentanyl and synthetic opioids has become a concerning global health issue, including in Australia. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, was first synthesised in 1959 as a powerful pain management medication. Its potency and its short-term effect make it an ideal pain medication for hospital procedures like surgeries. However, its illicit production and distribution have led to a surge in overdose deaths worldwide.

In the United States, the opioid epidemic has reached alarming proportions, with synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, playing a central role. Fentanyl-related deaths have risen sharply in recent years. In the US in 2023 the overdose death rate topped 112,000 in a 12-month period for the first time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Factors such as ease of production, low cost, and the ability to be discreetly transported contribute to the proliferation of synthetic opioids. The rise of these substances has overwhelmed healthcare systems and law enforcement agencies in many countries around the world.

By contrast, Australia's drug markets have a much smaller fentanyl presence. But experts say current global drug trends could see this change. In recent years, we have seen an increase in both prescription and illicit opioid misuse here in Australia. The illegal trafficking of prescription fentanyl patches has resulted in a number of Australian deaths and serious injury. Synthetic opioids are cheaper, more potent and easier to produce compared to historical, plant-based opioids like heroin. Fentanyl's potency, often 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, contributes to its high risk of overdose. For these reasons, we need to take the threat of synthetic opioids seriously.

Currently, fentanyl is not part of the drugs tested in either the urine or the oral fluids Australian/New Zealand Standard. However, in keeping with our proactive approach, DASA is investigating emerging testing technologies so that we may provide options for our clients should fentanyl become a serious issue in Australian workplaces.

To read more about the threat fentanyl and other synthetic opioids pose here and around the world, read the article Synthetic opioids like fentanyl could increase in Australia soon. Experts say we need to prepare now by the ABC News

If you would like to know more about fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, and what this alarming trend means for Australian workplaces, get in touch with our pharmacology expert, Judith Griffin, today via 1300 230 231 or email to


DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.


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