New Zealand Unprepared for Fentanyl Overdoses

Experts claimed that New Zealand was “grossly underprepared” for the arrival of fentanyl after the lethal substance was found for the first time circulating in the community and leading to a number of overdoses.

This past weekend, 12 people in the Wairarapa region overdosed on fentanyl that was mistakenly peddled as cocaine and ended themselves in the hospital or needing urgent treatment. 

According to the police in a report by The Guardian, it was the first time the powdered drug had been discovered in circulation in New Zealand.

Fentanyl, a particularly lethal synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of people annually in the US, has not yet taken its toll on New Zealand. 

The fentanyl’s presence, according to Sarah Helm, executive director of drug research and advocacy group the New Zealand Drug Foundation, underscores the absence of essential anti-overdose safeguards in the nation. 

These anti-overdose safeguards include having access to fentanyl testing strips and Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication that is now widely available in the US. 

In New Zealand, naloxone is exclusively available by prescription, does not receive any public funding, and costs around $92 for a single-use package.

The National Drug Intelligence Bureau manager, Detective Inspector Blair Macdonald, stated that because the New Zealand police did not have their own supplies of Naloxone, they had to rely on the non-profit NZ Drug Foundation for a donation of the kits to use in case there were any additional overdoses in the area.

New Zealand police said at least six of the patients who overdosed this weekend were unconscious and in critical condition when emergency personnel arrived.

Ambulance personnel classified many as being in “status one,” or a critical condition.

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