• Notification Icon Notification
  • Opioids Icon Opioids
  • Opioids Icon
    • Nationwide ,
    • Wellington ,
    • Bay of Plenty

UPDATED 6 May 2024
A highly potent synthetic opioid, N-Desethyletonitazene, has been detected in a fake benzodiazepine tablets.

Web Banner Sample Photo NEX Wgtn 1643
How to identify the drug
  • Blue
  • Circular
  • No markings
  • Possibly also available as a blue powder

UPDATE 6 May 2024

On 19 April 2024, we issued the below notification after the potent synthetic opioid N-Desethyletonitazene was detected in a fake, blue diazepam tablet in the Wellington region.

High Alert has become aware of a new detection of this substance after a blue tablet presumed to be bromazolam was submitted to a KnowYourStuffNZ drug checking clinic in Bay of Plenty. This blue tablet was confirmed to contain N-Desethyletonitazene, with no bromazolam detected. It remains unknown how widely this substance is circulating, however it has now been identified in the Wellington and Tauranga regions.

High Alert strongly recommends people have their drugs checked to help minimise the risk of consuming an unintended substance. Drug checking services can identify when a substance is not what it has been sold as. Find upcoming clinics at The Level.

Nitazene test strips are now also available for order for free here from the NZ Drug Foundation. These strips can be used to detect whether there is nitazene in your drug. They can test for most types of nitazenes, but it is important to remember they are not guaranteed to detect them. They won't test for the presence of other opioids, such as fentanyl. Find out how to use them here.

If you or someone you know takes a substance and begins to feel unexpected effects, call 111 immediately. Be honest about your drug use, you won’t get in trouble, and it could save your life.



This notification is to let you know that a highly potent synthetic opioid, N-Desethyletonitazene, has been detected in a fake diazepam tablet. There are concerns people who take this tablet believing it to be diazepam are at significant risk of harm, including death, even from a single tablet. 

N-Desethyletonitazene comes from a class of drugs known as nitazenes. Nitazenes are highly potent synthetic opioids and may have been linked to several deaths in New Zealand since 2022. Pharmacological data suggest nitazenes exhibit potency similar to, and in some cases greater than, fentanyl. 

The substance was detected in a blue tablet in Wellington and is possibly in circulation nationwide. It is important to never assume that what you have is the same as what you are being told it is. Misrepresentation can occur anywhere along the supply chain.

High Alert urges extreme caution should you chose to take these tablets and testing is recommended to help minimise the risk. Drug checking services can identify when a substance is not what it has been sold as. KnowYourStuffNZ, the NZ Drug Foundation and NZ Needle Exchange Programme run drug checking clinics across the country to help reduce harm - check the schedule here. It's free, legal and confidential.

If you or someone you know take this substance and start to lose consciousness or breathe slowly, call 111 immediately. Tell them what you think has been taken and that it could be an opioid overdose.

Naloxone can be used to help reverse an overdose. Given the unknown strength, potency and duration of effect, any person administered naloxone should continue to be monitored for 2 hours as multiple doses of naloxone may be required.

If you have heard of any reports of this drug, please let us know! The alert ID is N24/0041. All submissions are anonymous.

How to recognise the drug

As seen in the image, the tablet is blue, circular and does not have any markings. It was sold as a diazepam tablet. Please be aware that this substance could also be available as a blue powder made of crushed tablets. 

A sample of this substance was submitted to a New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme (DISC) drug checking clinic in Wellington. Further analysis of the sample was conducted by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), which determined the sample contained N-Desethyletonitazene. No diazepam was detected in the tablet.

Nitazenes are increasingly being detected in fake benzodiazepine tablets internationally, and can vary in appearance (e.g. colour, shape, and markings) to the tablet pictured. Fentanyl test strips cannot be used to detect N‑Desethyletonitazene or other nitazenes.

The effects of N-Desethyletonitazene are likely similar to other synthetic opioids.These effects include:

  • Feeling euphoric or in a ‘dreamlike’ state
  • Sedation (‘the nod’ – being drowsy and then jerking awake)
  • Temporary relief of pain, stress, or low mood
  • Slowed and/or difficulty breathing
  • Blue lips and/or fingertips
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Pinpoint (tiny) pupils
  • Seizures
  • Becoming unresponsive and/or losing consciousness

How to reduce harm from the drug

Diazepam and N-Desethyletonitazene come from different classes of drugs and produce different effects. While both are central nervous system depressants, nitazenes are highly potent and act quickly to produce strong sedative/depressant effects.

A typical dose of N-Desethyletonitazene is measured in micrograms - much smaller than a typical dose of diazepam, which is measured in milligrams. This means that a person taking this substance thinking it is diazepam may inadvertently take multiple doses of N-Desethyletonitazene, significantly increasing the risk of serious harm, including death. 

N-Desethyletonitazene is a very strong opioid and consumption can easily lead to an overdose, even among people with experience using opioids. High Alert urges extreme caution should you choose to take these tablets and testing is recommended to help minimise the risk. KnowYourStuffNZ, the New Zealand Drug Foundation and the New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme run regular drug checking clinics. Information on upcoming clinics, including those coming up in the Wellington region, can be found on The Level.

If you choose to use this substance:

  • Avoid using alone. Have a friend who can help, and call an ambulance, if things go wrong. Use a buddy system if needed - where someone is on the phone or calls you to check you are ok.
  • Lower doses are less risky. Start off with an extremely small amount (a typical dose is in micrograms) to check how it affects you. In general, swallowing a substance has a slower onset than other methods and means there might be more time to get medical help if needed. The nitazene is unlikely to be evenly distributed across the pill, meaning some parts will be stronger than others. Crushing the pill, mixing it, and measuring out an extremely small amount helps to distribute the nitazene more evenly, and avoid overdose.
  • Avoid using it at the same time as other substances, especially other depressant drugs such as alcohol, opioids, GHB/GBL, ketamine, and benzodiazepines, as these can increase the dangerous effects of opioids (for example, slowing or stopping breathing). 
  • Have naloxone with you – a drug that can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose and give you more time to get medical help. Talk to your GP about this. Some pharmacies and all needle exchanges stock naloxone. The Nyxoid nasal spray can also be purchased direct from the ‘Pharmaco Emergency Care’ website. High potency opioids like N-Desethyletonitazene may require more than one dose of naloxone.
    • Remember, nitazenes can be fast acting and you may not initially realise you require naloxone. Have someone with you who can administer naloxone if needed because you will not be able to administer it by yourself. 

Call 111 and ask for an ambulance immediately if you or someone else has any of the below signs after taking this substance. Tell them what has been taken and that it could be an opioid, it could save a life. Don’t leave the person alone and treat it as an overdose if unsure.

The signs of an opioid overdose include:

  • The person's face is extremely pale and/or feels clammy to the touch.
  • Their body goes limp.
  • Their fingernails and/or lips have a purple or blue colour.
  • They start vomiting or making gurgling noises.
  • They cannot be awakened or are unable to speak.
  • Their pupils become very small.
  • Their breathing and/or heartbeat slows or stops.

If you have heard of any reports of this drug, please let us know through the Report unusual effects page, the alert ID is N24/0041. All submissions are anonymous.

Stay safer by staying informed. Sign up to receive alerts and notifications about any dangerous drugs in NZ. Check out the alerts page to see what we've already found.

The National Poisons Centre is available 24/7 to help members of the public and healthcare professionals with clinical advice for exposures to this, or any other substance - please call 0800 764 766 (0800 POISON).

Are you concerned about your own drinking or drug taking? Reach out to the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You'll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential.

You can also chat to the Alcohol Drug Helpline team online through the website, or:

  • Call the Māori Line on 0800 787 798 for advice and referral to kaupapa Māori services.
  • Call the Pasifika Line on 0800 787 799 for advice and referral to services developed for Pacific people.
  • Call the Youth Line on 0800 787 984 for advice and referral to services for young people.