High-Risk Drug Alert: Protonitazene-overdoses in South Australia
Assist Plus - Blog

High-Risk Drug Alert: Protonitazene-overdoses in South Australia


South Australian residents, please be aware that a high-risk drug alert has gone out, after two patients were admitted to Emergency Departments in S.A. due to opioid overdoses in the past month. Sadly, one of the individuals has since passed away.

SA Health put out this alert on July 7th, 2023:


“The South Australian Toxicology and Toxinology Service has notified SA Health of two cases of opiate overdose in non-opiate users. In both cases, patients had consumed illicit drugs they thought to be gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and methamphetamine. Toxicological analysis identified the cause of opiate overdose as protonitazene. This is the first detection of protonitazene in a clinical setting in South Australia.

There is concern that protonitazene is now in circulation in the community, and that it may be present comixed with non-opiate illicit drugs. The risk of overdose and death is significant for the opiate tolerant, and extremely high for the opiate naïve.

Protonitazene is a high potency opioid receptor agonist. It is active when used orally, nasally insufflated, or injected. It is not expected to be active if smoked or vaped. Clinical features of mild protonitazene toxicity are pinpoint pupils and shallow breathing, and severe toxicity causes respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, and coma.

Naloxone will effectively reverse intoxication, but the dose required to achieve reversal is anticipated to be higher than for other opiates.”

This comes off the back of other states experiencing similar issues in the recent past, including overdoses in:

  • Queensland earlier this month, when fake Xanax tablets were being sold illegally; and
  • Victoria last September, when Protonitazene was being mis-sold as Ketamine.


How to reduce your risk:

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 a user-friendly medication capable of swiftly reversing opioid overdose, making it a safe choice even when uncertainty exists about opioid consumption. This life-saving drug is conveniently available at pharmacies without the need for a prescription.

Always bear in mind that all drugs, including alcohol, carry inherent risks. Therefore, it is essential to exercise caution:

  • Be vigilant about the potential circulation of false or contaminated drug products within your community, irrespective of official warnings.
  • Prioritize your safety by choosing a safe, secure environment and surrounding yourself with trustworthy individuals.
  • Remember that even seemingly ‘pure’ drugs can lead to severe side effects, fatalities, and hazardous interactions with other medications or pharmaceutical drugs.”


Finally, if you, or anyone you know would like to know more about cutting down or stopping on your own, visit our self-help section for more information.