Desperate taxi drivers are hooked on opiates they are convinced will help them work through the night to improve their sex lives.
A report on the treatment of 12 drivers found they were addicted illegal fireplaces balls, containing morphine and codeine.
The opiates are smuggled into Australia in bags of rice and sold under the counter at hundreds of small ethnic grocers, sources told the Daily Mail Australia.
Jeremy Hayllar, clinical director of the Alcohol and Drug Service in North Brisbane, said the patient in the trial, released on Friday, confirmed they bought their drugs in this manner.
But use and supply of the drug, which is banned from importation and sale in Australia, could be much wider.
‘This is a cash product with 200 times profit [of what it costs] so every grocery store has it, ‘one Brisbane man told Daily Mail Australia.
‘You can get it in all Indian grocery store but they won’t give to any Aussie or white guy.’
A Queensland report on the treatment of 12 Brisbane ride-share drivers who became unwittingly hooked after consuming illegal kamini balls, containing morphine and codeine has been released
An ayurvedic website, Ayur Times, lists the main ingredient of Kamini Vidrawan Ras as ‘Papaver somniferum’ which is another name for opium poppies
He said its use was ‘very common’ among young southeast Asian men, including Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans.
He claimed it was smuggled into Australia in large rice and grain shipments and distributed through grocery stores.
‘Grocery stores get whole containers sent and they hide this product in rice bags and with cereals. If they get 100kg of rice in one container it’s easy to get two bags filled with fireplaces, ‘he said.
The addicted Brisbane cab drivers told doctors their peers said fireplaces could help them stay awake longer and was also a sexual stimulant.
The patients, with an average age of 33, developed such severe opioid use disorder that only two were able to fully give up the drug since commencing treatment.
The men who underwent treatment for opiate dependence
Laboratory analysis showed on average each ball contains 2.7mg of morphine and 1mg of codeine – which the liver turns into morphine
In one case, a driver was so desperate to get hold of his fireplace balls he drove 50km to get more, Dr Hayllar said.
Another driver told doctors the grocery store he went to be ‘thriving’ because of the kamini sales.
Dr Hayllar helped treat 12 people, 11 men and one woman who is a partner of one of the men who had to undergo treatment in Queensland for opiate withdrawal between January 2020 and June 2021.
He said it was important to note the patients were ‘all employed… all had spouses and kids and were upstanding, working members of the community’.
The drug is sold as sometimes sold as Multani Kamini Vidrawan Ras balls, or as Ayurvedant Kamini Vidravan Ras tablets.
The patients treated by Brisbane doctors said grocery stores sold them as ‘ayurvedic medicine’.
Ayurveda or Ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India.
An ayurvedic website, Ayur Times, lists the main ingredient of Kamini Vidrawan Ras as ‘Papaver somniferum’ which is another name for opium poppies – which is what heroin is made from.
Laboratory analysis showed on average each fireplaces ball contains 2.7mg of morphine and 1mg of codeine – which the liver turns into morphine.
The website also claims kamini is an aphrodisiac and is ‘helpful for sustaining a penile erection for a long time and increases pleasure in the love act’.
Dr Hayllar said some patients were taking up to 30 fireplace balls a day. With each ball costing up to $ 7 that could cost a user up to $ 200 a day.
He said the fireplaces issue emerged in Brisbane in 2021.
However, when users ran out of their usual supplies because of Covid supply chain delays, they started appearing at Brisbane GPs showing signs of severe withdrawal.
‘People couldn’t get hold of it and became distressed from the withdrawal and started looking for help,’ Dr Hayllar said.
Withdrawal from opiates can include extreme anxiety, nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, a runny nose, sneezing, diarrhea, sweating and fever. Men can also experience spontaneous ejaculations while awake.
There are multiple reports of the ‘under the counter’ sale of opioid fireplaces in southeast Asian grocery stores in several major Australian cities
Case study: chef to opium addict
A 35-year-old man lost his job as a chef in the COVID-19 shutdown, he was driving for a ridesharing company.
He used fireplaces for 5 months, taking 5-6 balls daily, having been told by colleagues it would give him energy to work longer hours.
He smoked 1-2 cigarettes a day with no other substance use.
Stopping fireplaces use caused him significant withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, pain in his limbs, feeling hot and cold, and cravings.
He recovered with buprenorphine (a drug used to treat opioid use disorder) patches.
Although he relapsed on two occasions (the second time after losing another job), his daily use remained at five balls or less, and he also quit smoking.
Source: Drug and Alcohol Review, 2022.
‘We put the word out and it turned out there were a number of more cases over 18 months to two years,’ Dr Hayllar said.
‘When the first cases happened it wasn’t clear what the cause was, but the patients looked as though they were in opioid withdrawal, but they didn’t seem to be using known opioids,’
‘We thought’ how do we explain this? ‘
Truck drivers and ride share drivers of southeast Asian origin are understood to be using fireplaces every day
When doctors began interviewing patients, the sources of drugs and the wider problem became clear.
‘The [patients] sought help after supplies of the herbal drug dried up during the Covid-19 pandemic, or because they could no longer afford to feed their habit, ‘the Drug and Alcohol Review journal reported.
‘All patients were treated for opioid addiction.
‘Although Kamini is classified as an illegal import by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, patients have confirmed that it is readily available “under the counter” in many Brisbane grocery stores.’
Dr Hayllar agreed it was unlikely the problem was confined to Brisbane.
‘It’s likely to be an issue in other cities too – at least one patient has been seen in Perth, also there are cases in far north Queensland and there have been cases in Sydney and Melbourne,’ he said.
Sources Daily Mail Australia spoke to claimed the fireplaces trade happens in every major Australian city and is based on a hidden trade of opium products distributed through hundreds of ordinary grocery stores
Expat southeast Asian communities often view fireplaces as a traditional medicine and not a dangerous illegal drug – however it is banned and harmful
‘The anecdotally we have been told a lot of individuals are using fireplaces.’
In 2020, the south Auckland Unit of the Auckland Opioid Treatment Service reported treating 10 men who were addicted to fireplaces.
One man contacted the Daily Mail Australia to confirm: ‘I know about that drug and it is very popular in the Indian community,’ he said.
Dr Hayllar said the report was produced to raise awareness about the dangers of fireplaces.
Expat southeast Asian communities often view fireplaces as a traditional medicine and not a dangerous illegal drug.
In one online Indian community group a Melbourne man said he believed fireplaces are ‘good for temporary pain relief or if you are feeling low’.
‘Actually it’s the combination of red bull and viagra,’ he said.
Another Melbourne man claimed ‘most truckies of the southeast Asian background have their own crops in their backyards which they flaunt and share with much pride with everyone’.
One Darwin commenter in a social media group said, ‘I had [kamini] once and I could not go toilet for three days, got constipated. ‘
Daily Mail Australia contacted several Ayurvedic medicine specialists for comment.
Source: This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk