Synthetic opioids to be banned as government acts to stop drug deaths

Eleven synthetic opioids are to be added to the banned list in the UK to stop “lethal drugs” claiming more lives, the Home Office has confirmed.

Feb 6, 2023
By Paul Jacques

On the recommendation of Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), ten additional nitazenes, together with brorphine, will now be made Class A substances.

Their possession will now be illegal and anyone caught supplying the drugs will face up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

The Home Office says these “highly dangerous” drugs are psychoactive substances that can be more potent than fentanyl.

Often mixed into other pills sold on the street, the Government commissioned the ACMD to investigate after the substances were linked to rising overdoses in other countries.

The ACMD found one drug, isotonitazene, was responsible for 24 fatalities in the UK in 2021 alone. Its recommendation to place all 11 narcotics in Class A has been accepted.

Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “Synthetic opioids are highly dangerous substances, which ruin lives and devastate communities.

“We must stop these lethal drugs from reaching our streets, to prevent more tragic deaths and other harmful consequences of addiction, from violent crime to antisocial behaviour.

“Drugs like these erode our society and we accept the ACMD’s recommendations, to bring proper penalties on their supply.”

The substances to be added to Class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, subject to Parliamentary approval, are: Butonitazene, Etodesnitazene (etazene), Flunitazene, Isotonitazene, Metodesnitazene (metazene), Metonitazene, N-Desethylisotonitazene, N-Piperidinyl-etonitazene (etonitazepipne), N-Pyrrolidino-etonitazene (etonitazepyne), Protonitazene and Brorphine.

Because they have no recognised medical uses in the UK, they will also be placed in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Legislation will be brought forward to control these substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, as soon as possible, when Parliamentary time allows, the Home Office said.

The move comes as a UK Drugs Ministerial was held last week, with ministers and experts from across the four nations. Chaired by the Policing Minister, it aims to achieve a UK-wide approach to tackling substance misuse.

The meeting was the third of its kind and supports the cross-government drug strategy, which brings a whole-system approach to tackling drugs, from enforcement through to treatment.

More than 2,900 County Lines, which shift drugs around the country, have already been dismantled through the approach, said the Home Office, adding that as part of the effort to tackle drug-related deaths, it has also dedicated £780 million to support people through treatment and recovery.

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