Health authorities have expressed concern after several patients in Queensland unknowingly became addicted to kamini – an Indian herbal aphrodisiac that contains the opioids morphine and codeine.
In the Brisbane area, 12 patients presented to hospital with opioid withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, diarrhoea, runny nose, watery eyes, hot and cold chills, muscle aches and persistent yawning.
Doctors realized that the common denominator was that all of these patients were taking kamini pills regularly, but lost their main source of pills when the pandemic hit.
“The assumption is that the supply chain from India to these grocers has been disrupted,” said Dr Jeremy Hayllar, clinical director of Queensland Health’s Alcohol and Drug Service.
“So the price has gone up dramatically and the availability has dropped dramatically.
“So people have had symptoms. They didn’t know why. They didn’t know where to turn. They inquired and someone had the idea of coming to a service like ours.
He added that because seven of the 12 patients were carpool drivers, the impacts of the kamini as well as the withdrawal effects posed a serious risk to the wider community.
Thanks to a regimen of buprenorphine (also known by the brand name Suboxone), all 12 patients were able to return to a healthy life.
“It just doesn’t fit”
Kamini is an Ayurvedic product usually taken as an aphrodisiac or stimulant, sometimes nicknamed “Indian viagra”.
“Patients we saw told us they took it because they were told it would give them more energy and allow them to work harder and longer,” Dr. Hayllar said. TAUT.
“Another group of patients said it helped relieve anxiety.
“Now that’s really weird, because usually opioids make you sleepy and lazy. So it just doesn’t stick.”
As well as the 12 patients in southeast Queensland, health authorities have also encountered sporadic cases of kamini addiction in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and even far north Queensland.
A widespread problem
Australian laws prohibit the import of kamini, but it is generally able to evade detection when shipped with other legal goods.
Queensland health authorities say kamini is available under the counter in “many” grocery stores around Brisbane.
A jar of 40 pills can cost $130, Dr. Hayllar added.
A 2017 survey by SBS also found the drug was widely available in Australia.
“If you look at grocery stores in Melbourne, you will find many stores that hardly sell groceries, but make their money just selling kamini,” a grocery store owner told the broadcaster.
Meanwhile, the Therapeutic Goods Association discovered that many Australians were able to buy kamini online.
“So that really suggests it’s probably quite widespread,” Dr Hayllar said.
“It was the COVID supply chain disruption that brought it to the surface and now it may have buried itself again, and people were just able to carry on.”
The two main Ayurvedic medicine organizations in Australia did not respond to requests for comment.