Queenstown cops are issuing a public warning about potentially lethal vials of morphine that went missing with a stolen coat.
A packet containing nine ampules of the powerful prescription painkiller was in a pocket of a metallic grey puffer jacket nicked from Steamer Wharf.
Police say the coat, snatched on Winter Fest’s opening night on June 24, belonged to a local man.
“The vials each contain 30 milligrams of prescribed morphine and could be a deadly dose for anyone taking some and who isn’t used to the drug,” intelligence support officer Haley MacKenzie says.
“This is obviously of concern to us and we’d urge anyone with information to contact police immediately.”
Morphine, normally used for the relief of chronic pain, is usually administered by intravenous injection.
But an expert at the New Zealand National Poisons Centre in Dunedin warns the missing vials could be deadly if drunk by kids – and could potentially kill an adult.
“Doses of morphine greater than 30 milligrams by injection or 100 milligrams taken orally are toxic to the non-tolerant adult and higher doses than that could be fatal,” medical toxicologist Dr Michael Beasley says.
“If a significant amount was taken orally by a toddler it could have very serious consequences or be deadly.”
Police immediately notified Queenstown’s St John as its paramedics carry an antidote called naloxone that combats overdoses caused by morphine, an opiate similar to heroin.
“We’ve been alerted about the situation and it is obviously a worry,” local St John boss Alana Reid says.
“A particular concern is that this is the party season and if people see someone who has passed out in the street at night or at home, they tend to assume they’ve had too much alcohol and think the best thing to do is let them sleep it off,” she adds.
“But anyone who comes across someone in this kind of condition should call the emergency services and have the situation checked out properly.”