Government bans 11 synthetic opioids

Eleven more synthetic opioids are to be banned following recommendations by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the Home Office has announced.

policing minister Chris Philp.
‘Synthetic opioids are highly dangerous substances, which ruin lives and devastate communities,’ said policing minister Chris Philp.

Ten nitazenes, along with brorphine, will be become class A substances, with legislation being brought forward ‘as soon as possible’. 

ACMD was commissioned to investigate the drugs after they were linked to rising rates of overdoses in other countries, and found that one substance – isotonitazene – had been implicated in the deaths of 24 people in the UK In 2021. The other substances to be added to class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act are butonitazene, etodesnitazene (etazene), flunitazene, metodesnitazene (metazene), metonitazene, n-desethyl isotonitazene, n-piperidinyl etonitazene (etonitazepipne), n-pyrrolidino-etonitazene (etonitazepyne), protonitazene and brorphine. Public Health Scotland (PHS) recently published an alert about the increased availability of nitazenes, warning that they posed a ‘substantial risk of overdose, drug-related hospitalisation and drug-related death’. Some of the drugs had been found in pills being sold in Scotland as ‘oxycodone’, it said. 

‘Synthetic opioids are highly dangerous substances, which ruin lives and devastate communities,’ said policing minister Chris Philp. ‘We must stop these lethal drugs from reaching our streets, to prevent more tragic deaths and other harmful consequences of addiction. Drugs like these erode our society and we accept the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ recommendations, to bring proper penalties on their supply.’

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has announced that it is changing the classification of MDMA and psilocybin to allow prescribing by authorised psychiatrists for certain mental health conditions. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will permit prescribing of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression from 1 July.  The decision ‘acknowledges the current lack of options for patients with specific treatment-resistant mental illnesses’, and means that psilocybin and MDMA can be used therapeutically in a ‘controlled medical setting’, states TGA. 

‘Psychedelic substances psilocybin and MDMA are an emerging treatment for people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment-resistant depression, where first-line therapies have failed,’ said a statement from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. ‘The therapeutic use of psychedelic substances should only occur under rigorous conditions, overseen by an authorised psychiatrist, with careful oversight by an institutional research ethics committee, and careful monitoring and reporting of efficacy and safety outcomes. For approval to prescribe, psychiatrists will need to demonstrate appropriate training, patient selection, evidence-based treatment protocols and patient monitoring.’

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