The city’s Department of Health has kicked off a pilot program in bars and clubs to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Fentanyl is an opioid 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. In 2016, fentanyl was found in 37 percent of overdose deaths involving cocaine, up from 11 percent in 2015. The Health Department is distributing coasters and posters at nightlife venues in the neighborhood. The agency will also train bar staff members to administer naloxone, a medication that reverses an opioid overdose, and will hand out naloxone kits.
According to a press release:
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… “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.”
According to the Health Department, there were 1,441 overdose deaths in New York City last year, and opioids were involved in over 80 percent of those cases.