Health Department Pilots Awareness Campaign in Lower East Side Bars and Nightclubs on Risk of Fentanyl in Cocaine Supply

Campaign will appear on coasters and posters in Lower East Side venues, and the Health Department will offer naloxone trainings for staff

Fentanyl was detected in 37 percent of cocaine-involved overdose deaths in 2016, up from 11 percent in 2015; people who use cocaine occasionally may be at risk of an opioid overdose

Safety tips for using cocaine and fentanyl on coasters

May 23, 2018 — The Health Department today launched a campaign informing New Yorkers that fentanyl, an opioid 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, is in the cocaine supply. People who use cocaine occasionally may be at risk of an opioid overdose. Health Department staff will visit bars and nightclubs on the Lower East Side and offer coasters and posters to inform patrons that cocaine may be laced with fentanyl. As part of the campaign, the Health Department will also offer to train all venue staff to administer naloxone — the medication that reverses an opioid overdose — and will supply a naloxone kit for owners to store with their first aid supplies. In 2016, fentanyl was found in 37 percent of overdose deaths involving cocaine, up from 11 percent in 2015. This suggests that some people who experienced a nonfatal overdose from cocaine and fentanyl may not have intended to consume opioids. The Lower East Side was selected for the pilot because of its high density of bars and nightclubs and status as a nightlife destination. The pilot area is bounded by Delancey Street on the south, Houston Street on the north, Bowery on the east, and Essex Street on the west. This campaign is part of HealingNYC, the City’s comprehensive strategy to address the opioid overdose epidemic and save as many as 400 lives by 2022.

“We’re going into bars and nightclubs because we want to reach people who may only use cocaine occasionally. We want them to know that fentanyl is in our cocaine supply, and they are at risk of an opioid overdose,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “If you use cocaine, make sure someone is with you who can call 911 or administer naloxone in case you have an opioid overdose. We are grateful for the support of our local bars and nightclubs to get this message out.”

“The safety and security of nightlife patrons and all New Yorkers is of paramount importance to the Office of Nightlife,” said Ariel Palitz, Senior Executive Director of the Office of Nightlife. “We understand the opioid crisis is a national epidemic, and we fully support such life-saving initiatives and commend Health Commissioner Bassett for having the vision to implement them.”

In New York City, someone dies of a drug overdose every seven hours. In 2017, there were 1,441 overdose deaths confirmed to date (PDF); opioids were involved in over 80 percent of those deaths. The number of drug overdoses remains at epidemic levels as illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to be present in the drug supply. Fentanyl has been found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine, as well as in benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers acquired from non-pharmaceutical sources.

Opioid overdose deaths are preventable. Naloxone is available free-of-charge to all New Yorkers from registered Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs. The Health Department also offers regular naloxone trainings at its main office in Queens and at its Bronx Neighborhood Health Action Center to teach New Yorkers to recognize the signs of an overdose and respond by calling 911 and administering naloxone. The trainings are free, and all participants are offered a free naloxone kit.

Individuals seeking support or treatment for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. Free, confidential support – as well as guidance on where to obtain naloxone — is available at any hour of the day in over 200 languages.

If you witness an overdose, call 911 immediately.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle: (347) 396-4177,
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov