AUSTRALIAN Border Force have deployed officers to cyberspace to combat a rise in Dark Web purchases of killer synthetic opioid drugs like Fentanyl amid warnings from American counterparts we could suffer an epidemic.
Few in Australia had ever heard of the prescription drug Fentanyl or its analogues Furanylfentanyl and "U-47,700" until the accidental overdose death last year of rock star Prince and a police probe confirming a cocktail of the drugs in his body and home.
But now Fentanyl is being referenced by Australian state police, coroners' courts and border security officers as behind a spate of overdoses and or deaths and a rash of powdered packages now being sent in the ordinary mail weekly to this country.
A report from the US federal Drug Enforcement Agency to Australian counterparts has warned the epidemic they are combating is likely to be experienced here.
Such is the issue in the US, heroin and opioid related deaths have surpassed gun homicides for the first time. In 2014-15 alone death rates rose 72.2 per cent in the US.
Fentanyl considered the weakest of the four is still 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin.
ABF chief Roman Quaedvlieg told News Corp Australia the concern was real.
"Fentanyl has caused a large number of deaths across North America over a number of years and we fear it could result in a similar toll here as a result of its potency," he said yesterday.
Most of the drugs so far seized, averaging up to four or five a week, are tiny with just 1-2 grams each delivery but that is enough to potentially kill.
It is being purchased from the dozens of Dark Web or Dark Net sites - a section of the web where by using special software users and operators can buy and sell anonymously - and simply mail it to Australia.
The ease to buy prompted the ABF to deploy resources to track those making online purchases, particularly in small portions but bulked, from China, Turkey and elsewhere.
"Those seeking to import this drug should not assume the Dark Net, a major source of such products, is invisible to Australian authorities," he said.
"We have significant intelligence holdings related to Dark Net sites and people should not underestimate the ability of Australian and international authorities to track and detect imports purchased via these websites."
ABF's international mail command's Superintendent Phillip Anderson said quantities are small but risks high
"Even on the Dark Net where people are buying Fentanyl and Carfentanil they are putting warnings," he said.
"Even the Dark Net is warning people about dealing with this stuff. We are aware there has been overdoses with this because they tend to mix it with other stuff at the same time.
"It's fair to say detections are now regular sometimes even three a day."
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