Australian drug-testing service detects methamphetamine in counterfeit weight loss pill

A "concerned" parent of a young person taking weight loss pills was shocked when a test of the drugs revealed they were not only counterfeit, but contained methamphetamine.

The parent had taken one of the pills to CanTEST, a free drug-checking service in Canberra, Australia, after their child began exhibiting "aggressive" behaviour.

CanTEST has now issued a community notice after the illicit drug was detected in the counterfeit pill.   

According to ABC News, the pill - an orange-and-grey gel capsule with DUROMINE 40 printed on the side - was obtained online and appeared legitimate to the young person.   

They had assumed the pills contained duromine, an appetite suppressant that is typically prescribed as part of an overall weight management plan to treat obesity.   

But testing of the pill confirmed the only detected active ingredient was methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant that can lead to increased energy, euphoria and sexual arousal as well as hyperactivity, paranoia, aggression and confusion.  

Steve Imrie, the director of treatment services at Directions Health Services - an addiction treatment centre in Canberra - told ABC the parent had linked the pills to their child's altered behaviour, prompting them to take them in for testing.   

"They noticed more signs of aggression and a heightened state," he said. "Certainly not what they're anticipating with the weight loss pill."  

The sample was subsequently discarded, he confirmed. 

"We suggest that anyone who has a substance that they're not sure of, can come here and get tested," Imrie added. 

Speaking to ABC Radio Canberra, CanTEST coordinator Steph Tzanetis said the drug had been purchased from "the clear net", as opposed to the dark web. 

She noted that taking the pills could have led to an overdose for the young person.

"The signs and symptoms relating to a stimulant overdose can include things like overheating, a person could experience confusion, agitation," Tzanetis explained

"Because it's a stronger stimulant, you have to be conscious of the heart health.

"When it comes to something like a health supplement, or things that are promoted as a prescription, that is, you know, available online, there just [needs] to be a red flag that this may not be what they think they're getting." 

The CanTEST free drug-checking facility is operated by Directions Health Services and was initially launched by the ACT government as a six-month pilot.

Drug-checking is a harm reduction service (also known as pill testing) that analyses the contents of drugs to help users better understand the unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients lurking in illicit substances.  

In New Zealand, people can take drugs to KnowYourStuffNZ, a community organisation of volunteers, for free drug-checking services. The organisation is part of New Zealand's legal and publicly funded drug-checking programme, which also includes the Needle Exchange and the New Zealand Drug Foundation.