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Deadly ‘Frankenstein’ party drugs have hit Australia – here’s what you need to know

Strong opioids are being mixed into drugs to create deadly substances in Australia. Here’s what to look out for.

A deadly synthetic drug posing as cocaine has reached Australia, killing one person and causing several hospitalisations in Sydney over the past week. 

Dubbed ‘Frankenstein opioids’, the drugs are comprised of a potent cocktail of substances but are being sold to unsuspecting buyers as cocaine and ketamine. Due to the combination of substances, people are unable to manage their dosage of the high-strength opioids, causing unsuspecting buyers to overdose.

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Frankenstein opioids were first detected in the United States last year, causing deadly consequences in several states, according to the Centre of Diseases and Control

They are characterised by the combination of a drug, like cocaine, heroin, Xanax and oxycodone, a strong and highly addictive pain medication, along with a cheap, synthetic opioid.

Similar concoctions have been seen on the streets, but are often combined with heroin or fentanyl. However, according to the Daily Telegraph, these Frankenstein opioids are even stronger, and deemed “more dangerous than fentanyl, and up to 200 times more potent than morphine.” 

Reportedly, the drugs, which are part of the nitazene family, are cheaper to produce than fentanyl (a powerful synthetic opioid) or heroin, which makes them an easy and low-cost substitute when producing the drugs.

As such, higher volumes of the potent drugs are likely in circulation, posing a risk not just for those in NSW, but around the rest of the country. 

Late last week, NSW Health issued a warning for heroin overdoses, with NSW Poisons Information Centre Medical Director, Dr Darren Roberts, saying “We’ve seen heroin overdose among people using what they thought was cocaine. A heroin overdose could quickly result from snorting a single line.” 

Fentanyl and heroin has been found cut into drugs in Australia before, with a health warning issued in NSW in November of 2020. However if the new data is to be believed, then these Frankenstein opioids pose an even greater risk than heroin or fentanyl. 

“It’s important that people recognise the signs of an opioid overdose early and know how to respond,” Dr Roberts. “Opioids such as heroin can cause pin-point pupils, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, slowed breathing/snoring and skin turning blue/grey and can be life-threatening.” 

“One of the dangers of illicit drug supply is the strength and contents of the substance you are getting is unknown and can be inconsistent. In light of this detection, people who use cocaine should also consider carrying naloxone” – a drug that can temporarily reverse opioid overdose.

Similarly, NSW Health states that “People who have never or rarely used opioids are at highest risk of overdose from these substances,” as they won’t know what effects to expect from consumption, or when it’s time to call an ambulance. 

Risk of overdose is also increased by the use of other sedatives like alcohol, benzodiazepines, ketamine, GHB. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Opioid use can lead to death due to the effects of opioids on the part of the brain which regulates breathing”. Opioid overdoses can be characterised by the following three signs and symptoms: 

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulties with breathing.

“Anyone who has taken a stimulant drug, such as cocaine, and is experiencing unexpected symptoms, such as drowsiness, should call Triple Zero (‘000’) immediately or seek urgent medical attention. Naloxone should be given immediately if available,” says NSW Health. “It does not require a prescription and is free for anyone at risk of opioid overdose in NSW.” 

While going to the hospital after taking drugs may be scary, the government body urges people to remember they won’t get in trouble for seeking medical care. 

“If you feel unwell, or if your friend feels unwell, do something about it.”

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How to spot a narcissist across the dinner table

Identifying a narcissist early on is no doubt the key to protecting yourself against their damaging behaviour. Now, according to a new study, it might be possible to pick them out based on how they pick their plate. 

If you’ve spent more than a little time in the company of a textbook narcissist, you’re likely familiar with the personality traits they exude. Defined by their over-inflated sense of self-importance, entitlement, lack of empathy and desperate need to be admired, narcissists in their full, unbridled glory aren’t difficult to spot. 

Now, it’s important to note most people alter their nutritional choices depending on what kind of social setting they find themselves in. For example, you’re more likely to fix yourself a classic smorgasbord of girl dinner when you’re home alone in your sweats than if you’re spending the evening surrounded by others. 

In the case of narcissists, recent research suggests these conscious behavioural changes may be even more amplified. A series of three American studies published in Psychology & Marketing examines the choices made by sample groups of adults (each inclusive of individuals exhibiting narcissistic tendencies), linking distinct eating patterns to the infamous personality type.  

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Breaking down the three studies

The three studies were each centred around foods that boasted token health properties but were known to be harmful in high doses. Before being presented with the food items in question, the participants were all asked to complete a questionnaire that gave researchers an indication of how narcissistic each person was. 

In the first study, a sample of 644 adults was offered wine, a beverage that despite its high alcoholic content is also rich in health-promoting polyphenols. In the second study, another random selection of participants was offered chocolate, a classically unhealthy choice that is sometimes praised for its anti-oxidant properties. 

Lastly, participants in the third study were subject to a more hypothetical scenario, being asked to consider consuming durian (a relatively unfamiliar fruit to most people in the US) in both a social setting and at home alone. Before making their decision, the participants were made to read a short overview of the fruit’s health benefits and disadvantages, such as supporting heart health and high in natural sugars respectively. 

What researchers discovered

Narcissists are often associated with a skewed sense of judgement, possessing a unique approach to weighing risks and benefits. The studies were designed to highlight this association in the context of nutrition, with the results of each indeed supporting the notion that narcissistic individuals were more likely to drastically alter their eating habits depending on their social surroundings. 

For instance, in the first two studies where participants were offered wine and chocolate in a social setting, individuals who exhibited narcissistic tendencies often chose to consume more. They were found to lean heavily towards the perceived ‘health benefits’ that both foods offered, choosing to ignore the high alcohol and sugar content of each.  

Researchers found these results to be in line with ‘optimism bias’, a known personality association guided by the notion that narcissists misjudge their susceptibility to positive or negative events. In other words, a narcissist would choose to indulge in wine and chocolate due to the foods’ health-promoting polyphenols and anti-oxidant properties, likely believing they would in turn not be impacted by the high alcohol and sugar content. 

In the third study, exploring the difference between eating habits in isolation and in a group, the participants believed to portray narcissistic tendencies were found to focus on the fruit’s health-related drawbacks in a social setting, therefore opting to eat less. When left alone, researchers found the same individuals leaned more heavily into durian’s heart-health properties, consuming more of the fruit.

Does liking chocolate and wine make you a narcissist?

While the researchers uncovered a pattern between people’s narcissistic tendencies and their decisions to consume or avoid certain foods, indulging in a block of Cadbury and a glass of red at the end of the day is not indicative of any particular personality disorder. 

Narcissistic eating habits were not found to be defined by people’s affinity towards certain foods, but rather by their willingness to reverse their opinion based on their social setting, leaning heavily into health consciousness when surrounded by other people.   

In each of the three studies, participants who demonstrated narcissistic tendencies (based on the questionnaire) were more likely to overestimate the health benefits of both wine and chocolate in a social setting, and durian when alone. 

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