Warning issued over fake, dangerously strong benzos now circulating in the UK

Warning issued over fake, dangerously strong benzos now circulating in the UK

The current UK drug market is in “crisis” and could escalate to a “fentanyl-style epidemic”, according to new warnings from UK harm reduction and drug-checking organisations. 

Pill Report and The Loop are urging people to take caution with benzodiazepines (benzos) and other sedative opioids. Pill Report’s warning said testing on street-acquired “prescription” drugs, namely benzos like Valium (diazepam) and Xanax, are showing the pills are laced with bromazolam and metonitazene, which is a synthetic “super-strength opioid” that is allegedly 1000 times the strength of heroin and linked to more than 100 deaths since this past summer. Pill Report said bromazolam is often missold as diazepam, and nitazenes can also be found in opioid tablets sold as tramadol, codeine, oxycontin and ocycodone, according to The Loop.  

“There appears to be considerable adulteration in the heroin market, and so too in illegally bought ‘prescription’ benzodiazepines and opioid pills”, The Loop said on Instagram. “In some more limited cases, other drugs, such as some ‘club drugs’ may be affected.” Benzos have been used by club-goers to sleep after a night out, despite research warning of the heightened risks when combined with alcohol. Pill Report found that 47.1% of clubbers under 30 have taken a non-prescribed sedative in the last four months. 

These adulterated sedatives are a relatively new risk factor in the UK illegal opioid market. “Despite the risk, until recently you could be somewhat confident that street benzos bought in the UK were genuine”, Pill Report said.

The Loop recommends carrying overdose-reversing naloxone kits, often available for free at local drug services. In April 2023, Narcan (the branded nasal spray form of naloxone) was approved for sale in the US without a prescription. 

The Loop opened up the UK’s first free regular drug checking service in Bristol this past January. The organisation has been hosting a series of harm reduction and drug testing online training sessions, which will wrap up at the end of the month. 

In New York, a new harm reduction group SafeRaveNYC launched earlier this year. The organisation will have a focus on the city’s club community and BIPOC, LQGBTIA+ and 18+ events. For more on how the US opioid crisis has affected clubbing in the country, revisit Ria Hylton’s interview with DJ, producer and promoter Lauren Flax of Last Night A Deejay Saved My Life.

Read more via Pill Report’s and The Loop’s Instagram slideshows. 

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