JOHN WACKA: Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, for those that donít know me my nameís John Wacka. Iím detective superintendent from the state crime command, Grogan serious crime group. On my left I have Commander Terry Price from Australian Border Force and Doctor Adam Griffin from Queensland Health. Earlier this month Australian Border Force detected an illicit substance at the border, this substance has been identified as a rather potent drug called Carfentanyl. This is a very very lethal drug, this is the first time we have experienced this in Queensland and there have only been a very small number of seizures in Australia. Investigation is currently running into the attempted importation of this drug, and it is unusual we would be going to the media half way through an investigation but due to the potency of this drug we have decided to alert the public of the possibility of this drug being within our community. This drug is a synthetic opiate, from the american experiences it is made in china. The drug is used as a sedative to bring down elephants and large animals. It is a lethal drug used in a small commodity will be lethal to the user. Our concern is also to the first responders who turn up and may be exposed to that drug. The drug is either ingested or injected and a small amount of this drug is lethal. This is a dangerous drug, this drug will kill you. As i said we are in the middle of an investigation and i do not have any intention to outline any details other than what Iíve said previously, and we will not be outlining any methodologies to the detection. If I could hand over to the doctor to give a further brief outline on the substance.
DR ADAM GRIFFIN: Thank you very much. Carfentanyl is a synthetic opiate substance, meaning it is related to the same drugs as morphine and in particular heroin. This is how it is marketed among the drug user population, as either with heroin or as heroin. It is however 10,000 times more potent than morphine and is therefore capable of killing people at an incredibly small dose, weíre talking micrograms so a thousandth of a milligram. The actual substance itself may impair somebodyís breating and stop it completely, lose consciousness, lose their blood pressure completely, and die very shortly after ingestion or injection of this particular substance. The international experience has been that the combination of carfentanyl with heroin has caused thousands of deaths in the last two years particularly causing an exponential spike in the opiate deaths internationally associated with this particular substance on its own. Itís not able to be differentiated easily other than a scientific method from other opiate substances which makes it so easy to hide in other substances such as heroin. It has also been told, drug users are also being told this is MDMA or ecstasy or other substances simply because its available in such small quantities, its cheap to purchase by the actual drug sellers and market it as anything they wish. We donít want to see anybody die as a result of such small exposure, such a single exposure can cause death.
TERRY PRICE: Thank you very much, good afternoon. I think weíve just heard how lethal this drug is. Itís a synthetic chemical and it kills people. Our desire to get this out into the public is a demonstration by the queensland police service and the australian border force and the department of health, It demonstrates our commitment to the community as we all have an interest in keeping our community safe. As weíve heard this drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. It is not manufactured for the consumption of humans, as weíve heard itís for animals. Iím unable to talk about the detection by our dedicated women and men of the australian border force. Both this one being the second one, and the first one in queensland. The first one weíve detected was in Sydney last year, equally thatís also under investigation. Iím unable to go into the details of those two as itís an active investigation. Thank you.
JOHN WACKA: Ladies and gentleman if youíd like to ask any questions of myself or the two gentleman with me.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Can you tell us what sort of parcel or anything it was in at the mail centre?
JOHN WACKA: No, we wonít go into that detail.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: Obviously you donít want to talk about the investigation, is there a chance that there could be some of this drug in the community that has been missed.
JOHN WACKA: There is a possibility that some of this substance may have breached the borders, yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: Do you expect more similar parcels to come through or try and get through the borders?
JOHN WACKA: Thats uh, our Australian Border Force is doing a great job protecting our borders. Like any illicit substance weíre doing our best to stop those substances from reaching the community.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: You mentioned it was made in China, did the package originate from China?
JOHN WACKA: I wonít be going into that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: Can you say how much was detected?
JOHN WACKA: No, I wonít be.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: canadian authorities detected a kilogram not long ago, was it more or less than that?
JOHN WACKA: Wonít be going into that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: Is there any way people can tell, is there any warning signs if it is already out there, if it has gotten over the border, is there any way to tell?
DR ADAM GRIFFIN: The only way to actually differentiate it is scientifically, the forensic and scientifically within QLD health have machines and instruments that can detect such small amounts. Theyíre the only way to differentiate.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: Given just how potent it is to touch or be around, the people that detected it, the staff. How are they? Did they take precautions when they found what it was?
TERRY PRICE: Thatís correct, the experience with the Sydney detection we conducted a review of our handling procedures to ensure we are robust in terms of protection of our staff. Our staff fortunately with the technology we use, we donít need to use large quantities. In fact very very small quantities, and also we have fume cabinets for when we do trace detection. Itís only then when it goes to the lab for detection. Equally we do have concerns for responders, there are instances of deaths overseas from respondents accidentally being in contact with this substance. Thatís why weíre coming out now to give this waning.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: So itís dangerous even if you touch it? Not just ingest it?
DR ADAM GRIFFIN: Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: Ok
AUDIENCE MEMBER 7: In terms of the warnings and the information that youíre giving to first responders, obviously with their concerns. Have you made it clear to them what form these detections have been in. Because obviously this can come in a powder, pill a spray, have they been informed what to look out for?
TERRY PRICE: Yes indeed, and we work very closely with our international law enforcement community so weíre in daily contact with our US and Canadian partners. In fact we have those officers working along with our officers in Australia, so weíre in constant contact with those partners as well as other law enforcement around the country. For example i know china has just regulated the substance and will be in effect from the 1st March, so there are steps being made in China to reduce the instance of this substance being trafficked internationally. So we keep a crosslist and again we ensure our frontline staff are protected against these sort of substances.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 8: You sort of brushed on it but why would people producing drugs here want this particular drug, and why is it cheap, and why is it making itís way here?
JOHN WACKA: Thatís a very good question as to why anyone would want to ingest or inject such a toxic drug, um, I canít answer that. I donít know why youíd want to put your body through this experience. This is what weíre finding and tell me if Iím wrong doctor, but theyíre mixing the carfentanyl with heroin probably give them a bigger hit. Other than that I canít answer you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 9: Doctor you mentioned people selling it as MDMA and people selling it as ecstasy, for people who purchase those drugs how are they meant to know? What should they look out for? I mean I know the importance of getting the message out there but in terms of getting the community more details on what they should look out for.
JOHN WACKA: Look our message has been fairly simple, dangerous drugs, we donít call them dangerous drugs for any other reason that they will kill you. They donít discriminate, they will kill you. They donít care that youíre black, white, pink, rich or poor, they will kill you. Some of these drugs that are being produced will kill you, they are a dangerous drug.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 10: Is it the fact also that the people making them, they donít really care.
JOHN WACKA: Well youíre probably right, perhaps theyíre sitting overseas. The illicit drug market is a lucrative market in Australia, weíre spending a large quantity of money on these illicit substances.
TERRY PRICE: Also might add in relation to this particular drug, itís a synthetic drug and weíve seen an expansion from days of old cannabis and opiumÖ all of those types of drugs are normal. But these days the synthetic drug market is quite large and growing, I think itís just simply a demand driven enterprise driven by the amount of money that can be made with no thought to what the effects are on our communities. Methamphetamine is another example and the scourge that thatís causing within our communities.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 10: is it the fact that, sorry to keep harping on it but Iím trying to wrap my head around it, the fact that people producing ecstasy here may not even be aware of this substance is so potent? The substance that theyíre purchasing from China and bringing into Australia?
TERRY PRICE: I think thatís the message weíre trying to communicate, if you donít know what youíre using donít use it. In fact the message is donít use drugs, because itís getting to the situation weíre in now where these drugs donít discriminate and in a lot of cases, and in the case of Carfentanyl it has immediate effect. It can be ingested by simply touching it and thatís how dangerous it is.