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Britain’s opioid crisis is only just beginning

Nitazene is spreading at a dangerously fast pace. Credit: Getty

November 29, 2023 - 7:00am

The UK Government just announced that 15 types of synthetic opioids will now be categorised as Class A. The aim is to tackle the growing danger of accidental overdose by threatening suppliers with life imprisonment.

The Government announcement states that the prevalence of these synthetic opioids is limited across the UK, but this is not necessarily true. Nitazene, a deadly synthetic opioid with similar properties to fentanyl, has recently appeared in London, Bristol, Dublin, and Belfast. Several raids last week saw the UK’s largest-ever synthetic opioid seizure, 150,000 pills of which were Nitazene, resulting in 11 arrests.

Nitazene was initially developed in the Fifties for pharmaceutical purposes. After being scrapped for health risks, it has found its way onto the growing market for illicit synthetic drugs and is creating huge risks for users. It is dangerous due to its potency and the lack of awareness users have that they’re taking the drug, despite it being hundreds of times stronger than heroin and similar to or stronger than fentanyl, creating the potential for accidental overdoses.

Dublin in particular has been having serious problems. In the last three weeks, the city has had 59 drug overdoses, two of which were fatal, and there is growing evidence of the association with a Nitazene-type substance. As a result, drug treatment agencies put up information posters across the city warning users to be careful. In order to ensure their safety, drug harm reduction agencies call for continuous testing of drugs and for individuals to carry naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Nitazene’s prevalence is likely the result of a contracting illicit heroin supply. The successful ban on opium cultivation by the Taliban in 2022, after taking power in Afghanistan, has disrupted the international drug market, leading to a boom in synthetic opioids. Prior to the ban, Afghanistan’s opium supplied 95% of the UK’s illicit market, but now that percentage is likely much lower. Although many believed the ban may lead to the rise of fentanyl in the UK and European markets, it appears that Nitazene is actually the most prominent synthetic opioid in the UK.

This is also part of a wider trend. Synthetic drugs can be produced cheaply and easily in clandestine labs such as the one raided in Waltham Forest last week. The cheapness of these synthetic alternatives therefore makes them an attractive prospect to both buyers and suppliers. Nitazene may be new — but it is spreading at a dangerously fast pace.


Fin Carter runs Narcosis, an outlet covering drug-related news and violence.

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54321
54321
7 months ago

“As a result, drug treatment agencies put up information posters across the city warning users to be careful.”

That should do the trick.

Like Father Ted and Dougal protesting The Passion of Saint Tibulus with signs reading “Careful Now” and “Down With This Sort Of Thing”.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
7 months ago

Why can’t young people just stick to the classic ways of getting high, like hemp or mushrooms or becoming a Jehovah’s Witness?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago

So glad I’m not a youngster today. The amount of rubbish that went up my hooter or got washed down with cheap lager on nights out I’d potentially do myself some serious harm if it had been cut with any of these synthetic additives that seem to be becoming more prevalent

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago

The lesson here is that if you want to disrupt illegal drug markets, get some medieval tribesmen on the case.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
7 months ago

Or just take a lesson from Singapore, which hangs traffickers. Still … one might contract with the Taliban to control drugs, it would probably be a bargain.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago

I thought a liberal society was supposed to welcome voluntary euthanasia for those suffering mental anguish, illness and despair. Is that not the Canadian way? Add a bit of Russian roulette into the mix and those without prospects and a positive purpose to their life can go out on a high with these reasonably priced drugs. No need to take an expensive trip to Switzerland; instead a DIY solution. Are we not harking back to the days when suicide was regarded as a sin and a crime in making lethal drugs illegal?

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 months ago

Note Biden insisting earlier this month that China revise her policy on the manufacture and export of opioids if the CCP is to be welcomed back into the international fold.

John Riordan
John Riordan
7 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

I suspect China might have a long memory where opium-related disputes are concerned.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 months ago

These are, on the whole, drugs that people take out of necessity rather than recreationally.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
7 months ago

Remove the Narcan from public availability. The problem will solve itself.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

You want to kill people you don’t approve of then? The Dictators Handbook!