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Fentanyl use puts another in hospital

MARY ARGUE
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Another person is in hospital after overdosing on fentanyl.

A 22-year-old man became the 13th person in a week to overdose on the potent synthetic opioid linked to a supply in Wairarapa.

Emergency services found the man unresponsive at an address in the Tararua District on Friday afternoon. He reportedly responded well to the opioid reversal drug naloxone and was airlifted to Palmerston North Hospital.

A MidCentral District Health Board spokesperson confirmed the man was in a stable condition yesterday. Police said the man had consumed a substance believed to be fentanyl.

National Drug Intelligence Bureau Detective manager Inspector Blair Macdonald said the man had purchased the substance in Wairarapa.

“It is the same substance linked to harm in the Wairarapa region,” Macdonald said, indicating it was likely from the same batch.

A week ago, 12 people were hospitalised after unwittingly ingesting fentanyl sold as methamphetamine or cocaine.

Know Your Stuff NZ [KYS] managing director Wendy Allison said it was the largest mass hospitalisation from a drug overdose since 13 people ingested N-ethylpentylone in Christchurch when consuming what they believed was MDMA.

She said it was the first time fentanyl had been detected in New Zealand in powder form since KYS found traces of it in heroin during drug testing at a festival in 2018.

Allison said the people who had unknowingly consumed fentanyl were lucky to be alive.

In the wake of the overdoses, drug safety advocates, including KYS, have called for the opioid reversal drug naloxone to be made more available to frontline emergency staff and the public.

The NZ Drug Foundation said Wairarapa frontline police were now equipped with nasal spray naloxone in the event of further overdoses. The foundation also held two pop-up drug-testing clinics in Wairarapa on Thursday and Friday.

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