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Government cracks down on synthetic opioids to tackle spiralling drug deaths

The UK Government has classed 15 synthetic opioids as Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to prevent increasing drug deaths

The Government has banned 15 synthetic opioids and three stimulants more dangerous than heroin, to tackle spiralling drug deaths.

The announcement comes after latest figures published last week from Police Scotland showed that the number of suspected drug deaths in Scotland rose by 10% last year. There were 1,197 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2023, 105 more than during the same period in 2022 (1,092).

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: ‘We are highly alert to the threat from synthetic drugs and have been taking a range of preventative action, learning from experiences around the globe, to keep these vile drugs off our streets.’

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The 15 opioids, including 14 nitazenes are now controlled as Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. According to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, nitazenes are highly potent drugs which have been detected in substances sold as other opioids, benzodiazepines, and cannabis products and can cause complications like fatal respiratory depression.

Placing opioids under the strictest control is a ‘clear message to anyone involved in production or supply of the drugs that they will face the full force of the law – including up to life in prison, an unlimited fine, or both,’ said the UK government.

Responding to the Government’s move, the Department of Health and Social Care said it is working towards tackling this issue, and ‘hopes to harness new technology to prevent drug deaths, with 12 projects awarded a share of £5m funding to develop ideas’.