Scots Warned Over Potent New Street Drugs

Scots Warned Over Potent New Street Drugs

Scotland is battling a new wave of extremely potent synthetic opioid drugs linked to multiple deaths in recent months.

Health authorities have detected various potent varieties of nitazenes circulating in street drug supplies across Scotland since early 2023. These little-known synthetic opioids were originally created as experimental painkillers but never approved for medical use.

Despite being banned under UK law, illicit nitazenes are now appearing in seized supplies of heroin, benzodiazepines and possibly other drugs too.

These dangerous nitazenes represent the latest wave of ever-stronger synthetic opioids hitting the streets – posing threats akin to the US fentanyl crisis.

Nine Deaths in Six Months

Scotland’s drug deaths crisis could deteriorate further following the emergence of multiple nitazenes in the street drug supply this year.

Post-mortem toxicology has directly linked nitazenes to at least nine deaths in Scotland in just the past six months. Health experts warn the true toll is likely higher given the difficulty detecting these obscure substances.

The specific nitazenes found in toxicology tests include metonitazene, isotonitazene, protonitazene and etonitazene (known as NPE).

Super-Strength Opioids in Disguise

Nitazenes circulating in Scotland are mainly showing up camouflaged as counterfeit blue oxycodone tablets. These fake pills stamped “30” or “M” contain various hidden nitazenes instead of actual oxycodone.

Investigators also found nitazenes circulating inside white blotter paper and seized in Scottish prisons.

The potency of nitazenes can exceed fentanyl by over 100 times, making exposure extremely hazardous. Just a few milligrams can trigger rapid and severe respiratory depression, seizures, cardiac arrest and death.

Health Alert to Curb Crisis

In January 2023, Public Health Scotland (PHS) urgently issued a radar alert over the suddenappearance of nitazenes in drug seizures and toxicology results.

The PHS alert aims to rapidly notify health professionals of emerging threats and recommend actions to prevent further deaths.

But Scotland has struggled to mount an adequate response so far, experts say. Kirsten Horsburgh of the Scottish Drugs Forum charity said: “We have been slow to heed warnings and prepare…We need to act now.”

She stressed that Scotland desperately needs expanded drug safety testing services to screen supplies and curb nitazene poisoning.

Made in China, Mailed to Scotland

Experts say nitazenes flooding European drug markets largely originate from illegal labs in China. Sophisticated organised crime networks then traffic the synthetic opioids worldwide via parcel post.

Once nitazenes reach the UK, domestic gangs acquire batches and adulterate street drugs to boost their potency -often with lethal consequences due to inconsistent mixing.

The UK government is now moving to impose stricter controls on nitazenes and other synthetic opioids. But officials admit that the sheer variety of these substances makes it impossible to outlaw them faster than clandestine chemists can invent new variants.

Scotland’s drug deaths crisis claimed over 1,300 lives last year – the highest death rate in Europe. The emergence of illicit synthetic opioids threatens to further intensify the devastating human toll of addiction and overdoses nationwide.

Photo Credit: Zoom Testing

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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