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Daily Record
Daily Record
Mark McGivern

Health bosses issue warning over new pills that could supercharge Scotland's drug death rate

Lethal new pills on the street have sparked a major warning they could fuel Scotland’s drug death toll.

Nitazenes can be many times stronger than heroin – and can also be 10 times more potent than fentanyl, which drove the US to the worst rates of drug death the world has ever seen.

Public Health Scotland sounded the alarm after forms of nitazenes, which are synthetic opioids, were found in six areas across the country.

The specific nitazenes detected – etonitazepyne (NPE), metonitazene and protonitazene – have already killed 27 people in England and Wales.

In pill or nasal spray form, the drugs were designed as painkillers 50 years ago but were regarded as too potent and addictive to ever be prescribed.

The pills in Scotland are being churned out to look like Oxycodone, the controversial painkiller that was prescribed to millions of Americans and ultimately led to many becoming heroin and fentanyl overdose victims.

Dr Tara Shivaji, consultant at Public Health Scotland, said it was important to alert communities to nitazenes and make them aware of what to do in case of an overdose.

She said: “Due to their unexpected presence in the drug supply, alongside their high potency, nitazenes pose a substantial risk of overdose, hospitalisation and drug-related death.

“We’re working with our partners to improve the surveillance of nitazenes so we have a better picture of their prevalence and the potential harm they cause.

“Nitazenes are highly potent opioid drugs which can be many times stronger than more common opioids like heroin.

“A significantly smaller amount is required to get an effect and this poses an increased risk of respiratory depression and death.

“People who use drugs should be aware of standard opioid harm advice but be more vigilant due to nitazenes’ increased potency.

“That is dose low, go slow, avoid mixing drugs and use in the company of people who can respond in an emergency.”

To date, most nitazenes have been sold as counterfeit Oxycodone tablets, either blue or yellow, with an M stamped on one side.

There have been reports of the drug in Lothian, Grampian and greater Glasgow.

The first detection in Europe was in 2019.

The new findings prompted the ACMD – which advises government on drugs – to write to then Home Secretary Priti Patel, seeking an order to make nitazenes Class A drugs.

Chief inspector Anton Stephenson of Police Scotland said: “Emerging drug trends are constantly monitored and we will act proportionately to any increase in the prevalence or circulation of new or existing drug types.”

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