Kiwis buying drugs on dark web warned - it's not worth the risk

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) believes Kiwis ordering dangerous prescription medications online is driving a booming black market.

Newshub can reveal a drug intelligence report has identified India as the primary source of medication turning up at the border.

Xanax, Ritalin and Ketamine are all "commonly intercepted at the international mail centre", according to an online report by the National Drug Intelligence Bureau. The report was obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act. 

"There's a big black market for benzodiazepines - and Xanax is the flavour of the year, so it may well be that people aren't buying it for themselves," she said.

The confidential Police Drug Intelligence report says in 2016, almost half of all parcels that Customs referred to Medsafe were from India.

According to the World Health Organisation, 35 percent of fake drugs sold around the world come from India - and experts say using the dark web to buy medication comes with huge risks.  

"The worst thing that could happen is it could kill you, and the best thing that could happen is that it could do nothing," says Dr Baddock.

Medsafe compliance manager Derek Fitzgerald says it's not worth the risk.

"Products you obtain over the internet have not been approved in New Zealand," he told Newshub.

"They're unapproved medicines. They may be okay, they may not be okay. They haven't been checked for quality, safety and ethicacy."

Drug researcher associate professor Chris Wilkins says like trends overseas, use of prescription drugs recreationally is becoming more popular.

"This is a really hidden part of the drugs market, where people are basically using pharmaceuticals in a non-medical way."

For drugs like Xanax, there may be another reason why Kiwis are going online. In 2017, Pharmac stopped funding it and the price went up.

"It might be that they've had these prescription medicines prescribed before, but they can't get those again - so they can just jump online and have these sent to them in the mail," says executive director of the Drug Foundation, Ross Bell.

Wei-Jiat Tan, New Zealand Customs intelligence manager, says people are "gambling in more ways than one when they order pharmaceuticals over the internet."

Last year in the UK, Xanax bought online led to 20 teenagers needing hospital treatment.

In New Zealand, controlled and prescription medications is the third most frequently intercepted drug commodity, behind cannabis seeds and MDMA.

Medsafe says suspect sexual performance drugs are the most common items they see.