Last month, I spent a week visiting various infamous corners of Sydney's Kings Cross and Redfern trying to locate "Oxies", aka Oxycodone, OxyContin, OxyNorm, "hillbilly heroin" or as the media will have you believe, our "newest drug scourge".
Oxy is a semi-synthetic opioid highly sought by heroin addicts because it delivers a much better bang for your buck than the big H, manufactured as it is by multinational pharmaceutical companies. You know exactly what you're getting; the dosage, quality and purity is guaranteed, so there's no nasty surprises for the experienced user.
With that sort of a reputation, I wanted to know just how easy - or difficult, as it turned out - it would be to lay hands on this stuff. Not to purchase, of course, although success depended on me pretending otherwise.
Long story short, however, there's been none about. Nought.
"It's dried up," said one dealer, who declined to be further 'interviewed' once I told him I wrote for this newspaper.
I'll admit my scoring technique was a bit rusty and I looked far too clean to be a junkie. Dealers were suspicious and my timing was out when I first went hunting about 10pm.
"Only fasts now. Slows in the morning, down the station. All the Oxy boys are asleep now," said one dealer with a laugh.
By fasts - he meant meth (aka ice) and ecstasy, but I didn't think I'd be able to slip those onto my expense form for a column about Oxy.
So I tried the next morning and the only dealer who claimed to be 'holding' asked if I was a cop, then wanted to see my track (needle) marks.
"I only snort it," I said.
"Exactly what a cop would say," he replied.
"You don't f---in' have any [Oxies] anyhow," said the man's girlfriend to her partner, " no-one does. Just f--- off, mate."
Another friend suggested faking track marks with a pin and non-metallic purple eye shadow to mimic bruising, but even this ploy didn't help me the next day.
"They're crackin' down, there's just nothing. I can get you hammer (heroin) and meth down the road," said another dealer, impressed by my bedraggled appearance and tracks.
What I did bring home with me, however, was a sense of the power that government and law enforcement's intervention can have on the supply of legal drugs on the street.
Because the Oxy cat is out of the bag, so to speak, metropolitan doctors and pharmacists are now much more suspicious of prescribing and dispensing it to patients.
"They also know they're being scrutinised," said head of the NSW Drug Squad, Nick Bingham.
Thanks to the National Pharmaceutical Misuse Strategy Committee, approximately 50 doctors are being monitored because of their largesse with said prescriptions.
However, even Bingham admits "police don't particularly want to have to target prescription opiates when there are other important things to tackle, such as organised crime''.
The ironic effect of the Oxy crackdown is users are now being forced back to heroin and meth, manufactured and cut under far less exacting standards than those of a pharmaceutical laboratory.
The consequence is, some of our nation's most vulnerable and damaged citizens are being pushed back into the Russian roulette of shooting up what's rightly earned the nickname "junk".
Ain't life grand at the bottom?
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