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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Has Been Accused of Abusing Fentanyl

Last week's announcement that President Rodrigo Duterte once abused the opioid comes amidst international concern for the number of drug users, dealers, and innocent bystanders being executed in the Philippines.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Screenshot via Google.

Amidst international concern for the numbers of drug users, dealers, and innocent bystanders being summarily executed in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted to using the opioid painkiller Fentanyl. Duterte revealed he was prescribed Fentanyl, but was instructed to stop after his doctor realised the Philippine president was "abusing the drug." Duterte was apparently using the drug in patch format to treat an injury from a motorcycle accident.


The revelation prompted accusations from Duterte's critics, such as Senator Antonio Trillanes who said the Philippine president "qualified as a drug addict." This is a controversial statement, given the Duterte Government's tough stance on drug use. Recent estimates by Al Jazeera suggest that as many as 5,946 people have been killed since Duterte came to power.

Far stronger than heroin, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that's estimated to be between 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The drug was linked to Prince's overdose back in April 2016.

Others took Duterte's announcement as an opportunity to raise concerns about his health—the 71-year-old is the Philippines oldest ever president. "It is not just the illness itself that we should be worried about, but also the impact or side effects that the medications he is taking may have," Senator Leila de Lima said. "Especially on his lucidity and ability to make decisions with a clear mind."

Even Duterte's allies have called on the controversial leader to be more transparent about his health. "To end this speculation, it would be better if his physician explains how the President manages the pain that he suffers," said congressman Carlos Zarate.

President Duterte also made headlines last week when he declared that he'd killed three drug users during his time as the mayor of Davao, before he won the presidency in June. "In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police] that if I can do it why can't you," the BBC is reporting Duterte said. "I'd go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill."

President Duterte has long denied any involvement with the death squads that roam Manila and other Philippine cities, slaying those suspected of being involved with drugs. He also denied he was addicted to fentanyl after this controversy. "When there's regularity, my friend, when you take it and when there's a monkey on your back, that's addiction," he said.

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