Home Secretary seeks advice on synthetic opioid linked to rise in drug deaths

Home Secretary Priti Patel has written to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to commission advice on tighetening controls on a substance linked to multiple drug overdose fatalities.

Jan 21, 2022
By Tony Thompson
Home Secretary Priti Patel

Isotonitazene is an opioid that has been used instead of or in addition to heroin. It is 500 times more potent than morphine and has slightly greater potency than fentanyl.

In early 2021, the National Crime Agency said that more than 46 overdoses and 16 deaths linked to the Isotonitazene had been reported in a ten-day period. Public Health England issued a warning in August 2021 that the overdoses may have been caused by heroin mixed with Isotonitazene. Current data indicates there have been 25 deaths and seven overdoses linked to Isotonitazene up to September 2021.

Ms Patel said: “Reports of fatal overdoses linked to this dangerous substance have been deeply disturbing, and I want to act now to ensure no further lives are lost or families torn apart.

“I’m determined to end the misery and destruction caused by the misuse of drugs and will consider the ACMD’s expert advice on tightening restrictions on this dangerous substance.”

The Home Secretary will request advice on the appropriate classification and scheduling of Isotonitazene and related compounds under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and associated Regulations. She is also commissioning the ACMD for advice on two other substances:

• CUMYL-PeGACLONE – a synthetic cannabinoid that has been sold as a so-called designer drug; and
• Diphenidine, a substance which can have ketamine-like effect. Users around the world have suffered seizures as a result of ingesting the drugs and its use has resulted in several cases of severe intoxication and death.

Currently the three substances are covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, meaning that while supply of the substances is unlawful, possession is not.

Due to the concerning reports around the effects of these three substances, the UK voted in favour of international control along with other countries at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting, which took place between April 12-16 2021.

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