Cocaine Safety Tips Rolled Out As Part Of NYC Awareness Campaign

By David Konow 06/12/18

Though critics feel the safety tips are promoting drug use, the health department counters, "We can’t connect New Yorkers to treatment if they are dead."

woman reading a laminated sheet

New York City is trying to get the word out about cocaine laced with fentanyl with a new harm reduction effort: issuing cocaine safety tips.

As CBS New York reports, this effort has been spearheaded by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene because in 2016, fentanyl was found in 37% of overdose deaths involving cocaine—an 11% jump from the previous year.

The Department of Health also told Forbes, “In New York City, someone dies of a drug overdose every seven hours. In 2017, there were 1,441 overdose deaths confirmed to date; opioids were involved in over 80% of those deaths.”

To help make the public aware, warnings against cocaine that could be laced with fentanyl have been printed up on coasters, and health officials have been handing out them out at bars and nightclubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The coasters being passed around the city ask in bold pink letters, “Using Cocaine?” and they warn the reader that “fentanyl, a drug stronger than heroin, is being mixed into cocaine and is causing a spike in drug overdose deaths.”

Several of the safety tips on these coasters include using cocaine with other people so they can help you in case of an overdose. These coasters also recommend you have naloxone (Narcan) at the ready in case you’ve accidentally ingested fentanyl.

The coasters inform the public where to access naloxone, and they recommend downloading the Stop OD NYC app, which has important information on the dangers of fentanyl. (These coasters also list the helpline 888-NYC-WELL, where you can talk to counselors and link up with a number of resources.)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CBS New York, “When the health department tries to figure out a public health campaign, they are very mindful of not wanting to have unintended consequences. But, let’s be blunt, tragically there’s a lot of people using cocaine and thinking it’s safe… Any way to tell people it’s not safe anymore and could be laced with an extraordinarily lethal drug—that’s our obligation to get that information out.”

Officials from the health department also told the network, “The city is not encouraging drug usage—we are encouraging safety. We can’t connect New Yorkers to treatment if they are dead.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.