Public Health Warning – Overdoses from cocaine found to contain opioids

NSW Health is warning of the potential dangers from opioids being present in the cocaine currently in circulation around Sydney following recent cases of serious harm and deaths.

NSW Poisons Information Centre Medical Director, Dr Darren Roberts, said in the past two months, there have been 11 people who reported using cocaine admitted to hospital with signs of an opioid overdose.  Of these, two have died. 

“We’ve seen an increase in intensive care admissions and deaths associated with people using what they thought was cocaine, but in fact also contained opioids including heroin,” Dr Roberts said. 

“An opioid overdose could quickly result from snorting a single line.

“It’s important that people recognise the signs of an opioid overdose early and know how to respond. Opioids can cause drowsiness, loss of consciousness and slowed breathing and can be life-threatening.”

Anyone who has taken a stimulant drug, such as cocaine, and is experiencing unexpected symptoms, such as drowsiness, should call Triple Zero (000) immediately or seek urgent medical attention. Naloxone should be given immediately if available.

“One of the dangers of illicit drug supply is the concentration and type of substance you are getting is unknown and can be inconsistent. As well as people who use opioids, people who use cocaine should also consider carrying naloxone.”

Naloxone is an important life-saving medication that reverses the effects of opioids. It does not require a prescription and is free for anyone at risk of opioid overdose in NSW. It is available as a nasal spray or injection from some pharmacies and other health services. For more information on the take-home naloxone program visit the NSW Health website.

Anyone who has concerns about adverse effects from drugs should contact the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26, at any time 24/7.

For support and information on drug and alcohol problems, contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.  ADIS is a 24/7 service offering confidential and anonymous telephone counselling and information.

An updated public alert is available here.

In 2020/21, the NSW Government has invested more than $306 million delivering alcohol and other drug prevention, education, treatment and ongoing care programs statewide.