Inquiry Into Opiate Deaths To Hear From Pill-testing Experts

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A special coronial inquest examining the deaths of six people from opiate-related overdoses in May 2016 began in Sydney on Monday. The inquest, before deputy state coroner Harriet Grahame, is examining the way addictive painkillers such as fentanyl are prescribed in NSW and the dramatic increase in opiate-related overdose deaths in the past decade.

The inquest is examining the issue through the lens of six deaths in May 2016.

The deaths were not linked or suspicious. Nor were they exceptional. On Monday the counsel assisting the coroner, Dr Peggy Dwyer, told the NSW coroners court that the six overdose deaths were merely a “snapshot” of what she described as an “unacceptable” trend.

“There were initial concerns about an extra risk factor, such as a particularly bad or potent batch of opiate on the market,” Dwyer told the commission. “However, that is not the case, so in fact this cluster of deaths is a snapshot of opiate overdose, which is all too common in the community, rather than a spike caused by a bad batch of drugs.”

In April the first-ever pill testing trial was held at a Canberra music festival. An evaluation of the pilot is underway and on Monday Dwyer said it was “hoped that they may be available by the time the inquest resumes in August”.

The inquest is paying particular attention to the use of fentanyl – the drug on which Prince overdosed in 2016 – both for prescription and non-prescription use.

Read more at The Guardian

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