Non-medical use of fentanyl patches in rural Australia

Using qualitative methods, this study explored how and why people use fentanyl transdermal patches for non-medical reasons in rural NSW.

The research was conducted by a team from Lyndon Community, Murrimbidgee Local Health District, Albury-Wodonga Health & Penington Institute. The research project was funded by Lyndon Community. Using grounded theory methods and a narrative analysis, this study explored the reasons how and why people use FTP for non-medical reasons in rural NSW. Data was collected from 12 participants through semi-structured interviews. Each Participant were required to have injected FTP twice or more and resided in regional/rural NSW for the past 12 months.

The lack of knowledge about fentanyl and misinformation about how to prepare and use the drug is resulting in overdoses frequently causing death. The key mechanism of peer-to-peer information sharing about fentanyl indicates that erroneous health knowledge is perpetuated, amplified and distorted by peer networks. The rural context has dispersed populations, distance and risks associated with disclosing illicit drug use that are significant barriers to disseminating harm reduction information. The paradox is that fentanyl was described as relatively easy to get.

Peer to peer information sharing is a well-established culture in substance using populations. The concept of peer-to-peer education in harm reduction is an empowering, efficacious and cost-effective way of reaching individuals who would not typically seek information from health workers. A peer-to-peer process of information dissemination would provide a logical and effective method of distributing information about fentanyl and harm reduction strategies related to its use.

Investigating experiences of fentanyl users was viewed by Lyndon drug and alcohol workers as a critical step towards identifying harm reduction strategies suitable for isolated and marginalised rural injecting drug users. Lyndon was excited to partner with other expert rural practitioners with a passion for harm reduction. The team comprised researchers and practitioners with national and international experience in working with injecting drug users and developing harm reduction strategies.

Download the full research summary report by clicking on the image below.


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