Three people have been admitted to hospital and a health alert has been issued after pills sold as MDMA were instead found to contain a potentially fatal opioid.
The pills were detected by harm reduction organisation DanceWize and are reportedly laced with a nitazene, a type of dangerously potent synthetic opioid that can be stronger than fentanyl.
The pills contained no MDMA.
The potency of nitazenes varies between drugs in the class and can cause slow breathing or death. They can range in strength from levels similar to morphine, to stronger than fentanyl.
Three people ended up in Sydney hospitals over the weekend after taking as little as half a tablet. One patient was admitted to the ICU and has since been discharged home.
The tablets, known as Red Bull tablets as they feature the energy drink’s branding, have been circulating for the past year and have been found to contain a variety of different substances. It’s possible the pills could be circulating interstate.
People are being advised to be cautious when taking drugs, and to look out for overdose symptoms including pin-point pupils, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, slow breathing or skin turning blue or grey.
NSW Health advised people to seek urgent emergency help if they see anyone displaying these symptoms, and to use opioid suppressor naloxone if available.
It comes just weeks after seven people were put into an induced coma after taking pills at a Melbourne rave. People became seriously unwell after consuming pills sold as MDMA, leading to renewed calls for pill testing in the state.
At the time, Victoria Premier Jacinta Allan refused to rule in legal changes, and said she was planning to “seek further advice”.
The NSW government has so far resisted a pill-testing scheme in the state, but it expected to discuss it at a state drug summit later this year.