New York City

Health Department Launches Campaign to Bring Awareness to Risk of Fentanyl in Cocaine

What to Know

  • The city Health Department is warning that cocaine in New York City may be laced with the powerful opioid drug fentanyl
  • The city is distributing informational coasters at Lower East Side bars warning patrons and is training bar staffers to use nalaxone
  • 37 percent of people who died of cocaine overdoses in the city in 2016 also had fentanyl in their systems, health officials said

Cocaine in New York may be laced with fentanyl, putting those who use the drug at risk for an opioid overdose, the New York City Health Department warns.

The Health Department launched a campaign on Wednesday to increase New Yorkers' awareness about cocaine being laced with the opioid, which is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

The pilot campaign is being launched in Lower East Side bars and nightclubs, where Health Department staff will offer coasters and posters to inform bargoers that cocaine could be laced with fentanyl.

The Health Department is also offering to train staffers at bars and venues to administer naloxone, the medication that reverses an opioid overdose. It will also supply naloxone kits to owners for first-aid supplies.

Fentanyl was found in 37 percent of cocaine overdose deaths in 2016; in 2015, just 11 percent of people who died from a cocaine overdose also had fentanyl in their systems. Health Department officials said this suggests some of those overdose victims didn't intend to consume opioids.

“We’re going into bars and nightclubs because we want to reach people who may only use cocaine occasionally," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Basset said. "We want them to know that fentanyl is in our cocaine supply, and they are at risk of an opioid overdose.” 

According to the Department of Health, someone dies of a drug overdose every seven hours in New York City. In 2017, there were 1,441 overdose deaths, with opioids making up over 80 percent of them.

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