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VIC DRUG ALERT JUNE 2022

Drug alert

Yellow powder containing the potent novel/new synthetic opioid ‘protonitazene’ has been mis-sold as ketamine in Melbourne.

Protonitazene is a novel synthetic opioid.



Opioids are central nervous system depressants. They typically produce a range of effects including sedation, short-term pain relief, and respiratory depression (breathing difficulty). Respiratory depression often appears more quickly with novel synthetic opioids (NSOs), increasing the risk of life-threatening overdose. NSOs are a leading contributor to overdose deaths world-wide.

Protonitazene is a potent NSO that is not often seen in Australia. It’s around three times more potent than fentanyl and can produce life-threatening toxic effects in very small amounts.

There have been serious recent hospitalisations associated with this powder. The product appears to have strong and fast-acting effects, leading to loss of consciousness and respiratory depression which may cause life-threatening hypoxia (insufficient oxygen for normal functioning).

People who are expecting to use ketamine may not know how to recognise and respond to opioid overdose. Someone might appear to be entering a ‘K-Hole’ (a dissociative state brought on by higher doses of ketamine) but could actually be showing signs of opioid overdose. Signs of opioid overdose to look out for include: tiny pupils, breathing slowly and reduced consciousness (meaning someone is hard to rouse)

FOR WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF OVERDOSE, Click HERE:

Using protonitazene or other opioids or depressants such as alcohol, GHB or benzodiazepines (‘Xanax’, ‘Valium’, etc) increases the risk of overdose.


Reduce the risk of harm & get naloxone to reverse opioid overdose from HRVic today!

If you experience adverse drug effects, or are present when someone has an unexpected reaction, seek help immediately by calling Triple Zero (000).


Naloxone is an easy-to-use medication that can reverse opioid overdose – it’s safe to use even if you’re not sure whether someone has taken opioids. Contact Harm Reduction Victoria or DirectLine to obtain free naloxone locally and be trained in how to use it. Naloxone is also available from pharmacies without a script.


Contact the Harm Reduction Victoria team for anonymous support and education from peers. Call us on 03-93291500 or visit our chat function on this website.


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