Seven overdoses in just 48 hours caught Auckland's emergency services off guard as the unconscious patients were rushed to hospital, including two people found critically ill at an inner city brothel yesterday.
"If our crews see one or two patients at this time of year it's kind of thought of business as usual. But with so many patients being in the critical state that they are, that's the surprise," said St John operations manager Doug Gallagher.
The incidents have prompted a warning from police about the dangers of taking recreational drugs - particularly the clear liquid known as GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate).
"These substances are potentially life-threatening; they are dangerous and are taken in very small doses so it is extremely easy for people to overdose," says Detective senior Sergeant Marcia Murray of Auckland police.
Ross Bell from the Drug Foundation says GHB can act as an anaesthetic and put people to sleep.
"Ultimately we've seen people dying from taking too much," says Mr Bell.
The Drug Foundation is taking a pragmatic view about the recent jump in overdose cases, saying this is the time of year when more people are taking recreational drugs and better information is needed about what is available and how to stay safe.
"Crossing our fingers and hoping people aren't going to take drugs are no longer the approach," Mr Bell said.
The foundation wants testing like that done on synthetic cannabis to be carried out on all recreational drugs.