NSW Health has issued an official warning about a substance containing a deadly opioid that’s circulating in Sydney’s illicit drug market.
The drug is being sold to users as MDMA pills. However, it contains a synthetic opioid that can be stronger than fentanyl. NSW Health tested one pill and found it did not contain MDMA.
The drug is believed to have caused several hospitalisations. Health officials are now warning anyone against taking the small red/orange tablet, which contains a distinct inscription of the Red Bull energy drink logo.
The Red Bull drug
Opioids are a group of drugs that can block pain messages to the brain and boost feelings of relaxation. They are used in medical settings to relieve severe pain, such as discomfort felt after surgery.
Opioids can be prescribed and are popular as an illicit substance. Analysis of one of the ‘Red Bull’ tablets found the presence of nitazene, a powerful opioid that can cause slow breathing or – in some cases – death.
Nitazene will not appear on a fentanyl test strip (small strips of paper that can detect if fentanyl is present in a substance).
NSW Health has urged “extreme caution” against taking the ‘Red Bull’ tablets. It said first-time opioid users and anyone mixing different drugs were at an increased risk of harm.
Users have been encouraged to carry naloxone – a medicine that can be injected or used as a nasal spray to temporarily reverse an overdose. Naloxone is available for free from registered pharmacies in NSW.
Symptoms of opioid overdose can include small pupils, drowsiness, loss of consciousness and skin turning blue or grey.