Addressing the rise of synthetic opioids

Nitazenes are synthetic opioids are substances that are synthesized in a laboratory and that act on the same targets in the brain as natural opioids (e.g., morphine and codeine) to produce analgesic (pain relief) effects

Between February 2022 and March 2023, there were over 101 deaths, directly linked to synthetic opioids, specifically a group labelled as  nitazenes, which are between 50 and 500 times stronger than heroin. These carry a substantially increased risk in overdose.

To address danger to the public,in March 2024, 15 additional synthetic opioids are now under the strictest controls, in line with fentanyl, to prevent drug related deaths in the UK and ensure anyone caught supplying these substances faces tough penalties.

15 additional synthetic opioids, including 14 nitazenes, are now controlled as Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Many of these substances are highly addictive and incredibly dangerous and pose a higher risk of accidental overdose – which is also a widespread problem in other countries, including the USA.

Placing them under the strictest controls is a clear message to anyone involved in production or supply of these drugs that they will face the full force of the law – including up to life in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

The government’s priority is to engage with vulnerable people at risk of being sold these lethal drugs and divert them towards treatment; however, those caught in possession of them could also face up to seven years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Gov.UK released an update in March 2024 stating:

“The fifteen new synthetic opioids which have been made Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971:

  • Metonitazene
  • Protonitazene
  • Isotonitazene
  • Butonitazene
  • Flunitazene
  • Metodesnitazene (metazene)
  • Etodesnitazene (etazene)
  • N-Pyrrolidino-etonitazene (Etonitazepyne)
  • N-Piperidinyl-etonitazene (Etonitazepipne)
  • N-Pyrrolidino Protonitazene
  • Ethyleneoxynitazene
  • N-Desethyl protonitazene
  • N-Desethylisotonitazene
  • N-Desethyl-etonitazene
  • Brorphine

Five other drugs have also been banned today, including 3 stimulants – diphenidine, ephenidine and methoxyphenidine- which create similar effects to ketamine.

These can cause complications such as seizures and liver failure and are now controlled as Class B drugs.

A synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist (SCRA) called cumyl-PeGaClone has also been controlled as a Class B drug and a short-acting benzodiazepine drug named remimazolam is now Class C.

The government’s 10-year Drug Strategy is supported by nearly £900 million of additional investment during 2022 to 2025, of which the largest amount, £780 million, is dedicated additional funding for the treatment and recovery system.

We have already increased the number of people in drug and alcohol treatment by over 21,000, recruited 1,694 drug and alcohol workers and are expanding the availability of life saving Naloxone to prevent more tragic deaths.”

In early April, BBC News featured The Loop,a Bristol City Council commissioned organisation offering a drugs checking service. She reflected the discovery of nitazenes was “very worrying” and the organisation sent out an alert warning the public about the samples found in the city. The alert said nitazenes were 50 to 500 times stronger than heroin, and carry an increased risk of an overdose.

Lydia Plant, director of operations at Bristol Drugs Project, said: “It’s worrying for us.” “Nitazenes are really dangerous, they are associated with lots of overdoses,” she added.

“They make us really worried for people who take heroin and other drugs in this city.” She said heroin users should carry Naloxone – an overdose reversal drug – and to call 999 immediately if an overdose was suspected.

To support the healthcare and wider community, Tidal’s Naloxone training is aimed at support staff working with patients/clients who are at risk of overdose from opioids.  Naloxone training is delivered by a clinical trainer. (Qualified Paramedic or Nurse).

This training prepares staff to take the right actions if they witness an overdose and will also help staff to increase their knowledge and to attain confidence in managing an opioid overdose. Delegates attending Naloxone training will have a better understanding of the risk factors for opioid overdose and the effectiveness of Naloxone in reversing the opioid effects.

To find out more visit Tidal Training Ltd Naloxone Training and call us on 01242 371 999


BBC News https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/cv2x1rdvdpeo

Gov.UK https://www.gov.uk/government/news/more-synthetic-opioids-banned-to-protect-communities

Quote: Alex Chalk MP 01.03.2024 visit to Tidal Training Ltd Cheltenham.