Better utilisation of data and data sharing, including early warning systems, is needed to address the escalating drug crisis in the UK, says a report from Cranstoun.
Among the report’s other recommendations are the scaling up of properly funded drug checking services and testing kits, increasing naloxone supply, scaling up provision of diamorphine-assisted treatment, the implementation of overdose prevention centres and increasing the number of people accessing substitute medication and opioid treatment. The report has been backed by 35 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum.
Nitazenes can be anything up to 500 times more potent than heroin and the Taliban’s ban on opium cultivation could mean more synthetic opioids in circulation in the UK, the report warns, a situation the charity calls a ‘rapidly developing public health emergency’ that could mirror the ongoing crisis in North America.
‘We are seeing substances mis-sold as heroin or heroin and other drugs mixed with high-strength synthetic opioids right across the country,’ said Cranstoun director Megan Jones. ‘Our report calls on the UK government to get ahead of the curve on this rapidly escalating public health emergency. The window of opportunity to reduce deaths and suffering, prevent nitazenes becoming ubiquitous in the drug supply, and prevent an unmanageable crisis for emergency responders is closing. Without immediate action encompassing a whole system approach, we will be wholly unprepared for what lies around the corner. We cannot afford to sleepwalk into a public health emergency. We fear that now these types of opioids are becoming widely available, that pandora’s box has been opened and these much more potent types of drugs will remain mainstream in the UK’s drug supply.’
Synthetic opioids – a whole system approach to a public health emergency at https://cranstoun.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Cranstoun-Contaminated-Drugs-Report-Final-2.pdf
(News June 2023): ‘Cheap and easy’ synthetic drugs transforming markets‘, says UNODC
(News August 2023): OHID issues new guidance on dealing with synthetic opioid threats.
(Partner Update, Turning Point, August 2023): Synthetic opioids and reducing risk.
Cranstoun’s peer-led naloxone team at the DDN Conference 2023