Number of overdoses in Cork linked to dangerous synthetic drug rises to 13

Overdoses believed to relate to the presence in heroin of nitazene, a synthetic opioid 25 times stronger than fentanyl

The number of suspected overdoses among heroin users in Cork linked to traces of a dangerous synthetic drug has risen to 13, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Drug users should not try new types of drugs or new batches being sold on the markets due to the extra risk at this time, it has warned.

The overdoses are believed to relate to the presence in heroin of nitazene, a potent and dangerous synthetic opioid.

“We are unable to confirm whether there are any fatalities associated with the drug,” a HSE spokesman said on Sunday. “This was not a contaminated batch of drugs, this was nitazene drugs being sold as ‘heroin’.”


“Due to this concerning rise in opioid overdoses in the Cork city area and the risks posed by nitazene-type substances, the HSE is continuing to collaborate with various partners, including hospital emergency departments, emergency services, non-governmental organisation (NGO) service providers, An Garda Síochána, and laboratories at the National Drug Treatment Centre and Forensic Science Ireland to monitor the situation closely.”

The overdoses in Cork follow a spate of overdoses in Dublin last month that were linked in part to nitazene, which is responsible for dozens of fatalities in the US and UK.

Almost 60 overdoses occurred among drug users in the Dublin city centre area, with the majority of those occurring in the first few days.

Naloxone – which temporarily reverses the effects of opiate-type drugs such as heroin, keeping the person alive until emergency services arrive – is available free from Cork addiction services.

In the Dublin overdoses, testing of drugs identified a form of nitazene specifically known as N-Pyrrolidino Protonitazene. It was the first time the substance had been identified in Ireland.

The substance is estimated to be 25 times stronger than fentanyl, which itself is responsible for huge numbers of overdose deaths in the US but has yet to take hold in Ireland or Europe.

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Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times