Credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The latest fix of Queensland junkies comes in the form of a potent anaesthetic patch for cancer patients as their pain control management.

At a recent conference about drugs in Brisbane, Queensland Health researchers informed that fentanyl - a powerful narcotic painkiller of 100 more time strength of morphine - was gradually becoming the popular drug of abuse.

Based on the presentation by the researchers, the amendments to the listing on Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme for fentanyl from August 2006 in Australia to include chronic non-cancer pain has caused an increase in its usage as it is easily obtained at a reduced cost.

As medical practitioners are warning of the use of hillbilly heroin - in the form of the prescription drug OxyContin, the reports of fentanyl abuse have been slowly picking up pace.

In over 10 years, the controlled-release oxycodone (OxyContin) prescription in Australia and Queensland has increased significantly and now outperforms morphine as the pharmaceutical opioid prescribed by GPs, revealed the Brisbane conference.

Illegal drug users are now finding prescription opioids preferable as they come cheaper, safer and easily obtained. Drug addicts too have changed their source of getting drugs.

When addicts turn to painkillers - as it gets more difficult to find codeine in medicines - trouble follows, and they run the risk of dire health consequence from other drugs contained in the pills.

Patients have been reported to take eight times the prescribed dose of painkillers just to get enough codeine.

According to Mark West, director of drug prevention programs for Queensland Health, needle exchanges had observed a spike in the number of patients who are using prescription opioids - fentanyl and OxyContin - as their primary drug of choice

The risk of overdose is the greatest when this medications are obtained without prescription, stressed Mr West.

The recent Project Rx is an effort by the Queensland police to curb the abuse of prescription opioids before it gets ugly.