​“It’s an epidemic”: Fake and laced benzos are circulating in the UK

today28/03/2024 3

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The UK is reportedly facing a “benzo crisis” as the UK drugs market enters a “high-risk phase”, according to harm reduction and drug safety service Pill Report.

Both Pill Report and The Loop issued warnings this week on the rise of fake and laced benzos in the UK – most commonly pill-based sedative drugs such as xanax and valium – which Pill Report said is growing into a “fentanyl-style epidemic”.

Benzos, which are commonly used to treat anxiety and often used by ravers to fall asleep at the end of a night, enhance the production of the GABA neurotransmitter to reduce the activity of nerve cells, ultimately calming the body and mind.

Pill Report suggests that 47.1% of American clubbers aged 18 to 29 have used “non-prescribed” sedative drugs like benzos in the last four months.

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“If you get your prescription from anyone but a doctor, you need to listen up and tell your friends,” Pill Report explained on Instagram earlier this week.

“The UK drugs market is entering a high-risk phase, specifically regarding synthetic opioids in the drugs supply,” they said. “Most street benzos – including those in realistic, branded, blister packs – now contain alternative compounds when tested by drugs testing services.”

Alternative compounds found in those pills include the psychoactive substance bromazolam, as well as metonitazene, a “super-strength opioid” around 1000x the strength of heroin, which has been linked to more than 100 deaths since last summer.

“Until recently, you could be somewhat confident that street benzos bought in the UK were genuine,” they explained. “But drug testing results have recently that benzos on the illicit market contain a dizzying and dangerous array of alternative substances.”

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Similarly, drug safety and harm reduction non-profit The Loop also issued a warning this week on the rise of fake and laced benzos, urging anyone using such drugs to get them tested.

“The UK drugs market has been changing and there are now a range of higher risk substances circulating, such as nitazenes,” The Loop said alongside a set of infographics. “We want to raise awareness about this emerging public health risk.”

“There appears to be considerable adulteration in the heroin market, and so too in illegally bought “prescription” benzodiazepines and opioid pills. In some more limited cases, other drugs, such as some “club drugs” may be affected.”

Read this next: How to protect yourself from super-strength ecstasy

The Loop advised several safety precautions, which include drug testing, carrying naloxone, avoid taking drugs alone, and looking out for “unexpected reactions” such as a sudden loss of consciousness, memory loss, or blackouts.

We’ve listed some helpful resources below.

Pill Report is a harm reduction and information service offering drug testing kits, ear protection, and more. Find out more about them here.

The Loop is a non-profit NGO promoting harm reduction, health & wellbeing through drug checking, staff training, information & advice. Find out more about them here.

WEDINOS is a harm reduction project providing an anonymous service, and reflects trends in substance use. Find out more about them here.

Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

Photo by Quote Catalog

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Written by: Tim Hopkins

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