W-18: The new scary pill
W-18 is the latest terrifying drug to hit Australia’s shores. Some have claimed it’s 100 times more potent than Fentanyl, a pain medication carried by paramedics, which hit the Victorian headlines a few years ago after turning up on the streets under the nickname of ‘Drop Dead’ due to its high rate of overdoses.
Developed in the 1980s, W-18 was initially designed as a non-addictive alternative to opiate pain medications, such as morphine. Classed as a depressant, W-18 is highly appealing to heroin users because of its ability to affect the central nervous system.
What makes W-18 so dangerous is its potency and distribution. After being manufactured in foreign labs, only small amounts are required to get through border protection to make drug lords a shitload of money. Once it’s entered our sunny shores, W-18 is diluted with various other substances, ranging from heroin to baby powder, with no effect on the drug’s potency. It’s often peddled to unknowing junkies described as something else.
Experts and coronial inquests have found this misconception is where the true problem lies. Given W-18’s strength and the dilution inconsistencies, accidental overdose is more likely to occur. Although W-18 is often unknowingly fed to heroin users, it’s important to note people do specifically seek this drug out.
This raises an age-old question: why?
Research has shown W-18 doesn’t show up in blood tests, unlike most opiates. This would allow you to go safely undetected during a random drug-screening process, all while riding a high. It might prevent your addiction from losing you your job, or even your licence (provided it hasn’t already been cut for other illicit drugs).
Most addicts will also tell you that after trying their desired drug, no other high ever comes close. Often, it’s while chasing this unattainable memory of euphoria they increase the dose and frequency of their chosen poison. Eventually, some move on to something stronger—like W-18—to get their kicks. Funnily enough, studies have shown the environment in which a drug is taken influences a person’s increasing tolerance to it; unbeknownst to the user, continually returning to the same dealer or place to shoot up causes their body to unconsciously react to environmental sensory cues and prepare to fight the drug before it’s even entered their system. In a way, part of the reason people seek out W-18 is humans are creatures of habit.
Finally, it’s important to remember most people become addicts while trying to avoid or escape trauma. I don’t need to tell you how fucked up some things get in this world, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that in many ways, it’s our society’s fault people head down this path. Embedded deep in Australian culture is this ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude towards uncomfortable subjects, and it’s often because of this attitude victims of abuse find it hard to seek support.
If you are, or you know someone who is, struggling with addiction, please be aware that help is available. Contact your local GP for information on support services.