Government bans 14 nitazenes

Fifteen more synthetic opioids, including 14 nitazenes, have been controlled as class A substances, the Home Office has announced. 

The government has also introduced its tobacco and vapes bill
The government has also introduced its tobacco and vapes bill

While the government’s priority is to ‘engage with vulnerable people at risk of being sold these lethal drugs and divert them towards treatment’, anyone caught in possession could face ‘up to seven years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both’, it states. 

The 15 new synthetic opioids to be made class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act are metonitazene, protonitazene, isotonitazene, butonitazene, flunitazene, metodesnitazene (metazene), etodesnitazene (etazene), N-pyrrolidino-etonitazene (etonitazepyne), N-piperidinyl-etonitazene (etonitazepipne), N-pyrrolidino protonitazene, ethyleneoxynitazene, N-desethyl protonitazene, N-desethylisotonitazene, N-desethyl-etonitazene and brorphine. Three stimulants – diphenidine, ephenidine and methoxyphenidine – have also been controlled as class B drugs along with a synthetic cannabinoid, with a short-acting benzodiazepine made a class C drug. 

The government is also enhancing its surveillance and early warning system, it has announced – including analysing wastewater or recording overdose spikes in specific locations – with the information passed on to public health and criminal justice agencies to enable rapid action. 

crime and policing minister Chris Philp
Crime and policing minister Chris Philp

‘Synthetic opioids are significantly more toxic than heroin and have led to thousands of deaths overseas,’ said crime and policing minister Chris Philp. ‘We are determined to ensure these destructive and lethal drugs do not take hold in our communities in the UK.  We are enhancing our early warning system to ensure the right agencies can respond rapidly if these drugs are detected in communities.’

The government has also introduced its tobacco and vapes bill, with the aim of fulfilling its commitment to create a ‘smokefree generation’. Alongside powers to restrict vape flavours and packaging to make them less attractive to children there will also be on-the-spot fines for people selling the products to anyone underage. Under the proposals anyone turning 15 this year, or younger, will never legally be able to buy tobacco in the UK. ‘If passed, this will be a major public health measure which will reduce illness, disability and premature deaths for children today and future generations,’ said chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty.  

See the April issue of DDN for a feature on tackling nitazenes  

Related articles:

(Features, March 2024): Testing the limits – Harm reduction experts make the case for more drug checking for nitazenes and other substances.

(Features, September 2023): DDN visited the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw to hear about the challenges of mainstreaming tobacco harm reduction.

(Features, November 2023): Stayin’ Alive – A new family of synthetic opioids, known as nitazenes, have adulterated a number of illicit drugs in the UK.

(News, December 2023): Nitazenes detected in 25 Scottish drug deaths

(News, August 2023): Better utilisation of data and data sharing, including early warning systems, is needed to address the escalating drug crisis in the UK

(Partner Updates, September 2023): Release, alongside EuroNPUD and other drug treatment service colleagues in the UK, have produced harm reduction advice on nitazenes.

Search the DDN archive for more on vaping, nitazenes, fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

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