Synthetic drugs warning

Queenslanders have been warned of the increasing risk posed by synthetic drugs, particularly cannabis and amphetamine varieties.

In a new report on the illicit drug market by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, methylamphetamines (in some forms known as “gooey” or “ice”) and MDMA (known as ecstasy) are re-emerging as the major problems in Queensland.

Most methylamphetamine in Queensland is produced domestically in illegal drug labs, using “precursor chemicals” imported from China, Thailand, Cambodia and India.

Queensland has Australia’s major problem with illicit drug labs – with 50 per cent of Australia’s drug labs exposed in Queensland.

While traditional cannabis and heroin are losing their appeal, cocaine has increased as a drug threat for the first time since 2004.

Queensland still has an established heroin market, with the most concentrated activity occurring in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

The supply of heroin in Queensland relies heavily on links to Sydney and Melbourne.

But the study warns the emerging trend is for “synthetic” drugs, which mimic the effect of ecstasy and amphetamines.

“Tablets marketed as ‘ecstasy’ may contain a range of harmful substances other than MDMA including piperazines and drug analogues,” the report says.

“One of the most harmful substances found in ‘ecstasy’ tablets has been the highly toxic PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), which has been linked to deaths.”

The trends are revealed in the CMC’s latest research, released on Friday, on the eve of one of the biggest user periods of recreational drugs, the Christmas-New Year period.

The CMC’s assistant commissioner, crime, Kathleen Florian, said they believed organised crime was targeting “niche” markets to improve profits.

“The most pervasive form of organised crime activity in Queensland is the sale and distribution of illicit drugs,” Ms Florian said.

She said organised crime groups were identifying “niche markets” and then targeting vulnerable user groups or regions.

“They rarely focus on one commodity and will seek alternative suppliers to meet demand, often mixing drugs with a range of highly toxic or untested substances, which means taking any of them can be like playing Russian roulette.”

It warns that synthetic drugs that mimic the effect of ecstasy and amphetamines are now being detected by police.

The study, Illicit Drug Markets 2012, shows:Methylamphetamine type stimulants are now rated a “very high” risk.Pharmaceuticals have jumped from a “low” risk to almost a “high” risk in three years.Synthetic cannabis and synthetic stimulants have jumped from “low” to “high” risk in three years.Performance and “image-enhancing” drugs have appeared as a “medium” threat.Traditional cannabis and heroin are still rated as “high” threats, but are declining.Cocaine is increasing for the first time since 2004 from a “medium” to a “high” threat.

Cannabis or old-fashioned marijuana is still the major drug problem in Queensland by volume, and is a major problem in some north Queensland indigenous communities. It is widely viewed as a “background” drug, used with many other pills, amphetamines or “harder” drugs.

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