Eleven more synthetic opioids are set to be banned in the UK in a bid to tackle drug deaths.
Acting on the recommendation of Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the Home Office announced that the following substances will be added to Class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, subject to parliamentary approval:
- Etodesnitazene (etazene)
- Metodesnitazene (metazene)
- N-Piperidinyl-etonitazene (etonitazepipne)
- N-Pyrrolidino-etonitazene (etonitazepyne)
Their classification as Class A drugs will make both the possession and supply of these dangerous psychoactive substances illegal, and anyone who supplies them will face up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
The drugs will also be placed in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, as they have no recognised medical use in the UK.
The move comes as part of a nationwide drive by the government to tackle substance misuse, which includes £53m to be allocated to 28 local authorities in England, to provide housing support for people in drug and alcohol treatment.
Policing Minister, Chris Philp, said: “Synthetic opioids are highly dangerous substances, which ruin lives and devastate communities.
“We must stop these lethal drugs from reaching our streets, to prevent more tragic deaths and other harmful consequences of addiction, from violent crime to antisocial behaviour.”
What are opioids and opiates?
Although the terms ‘opiates’ and ‘opioids’ are often used interchangeably, the two are different.
Opiates are natural chemical compounds that are extracted or refined from plant matter, such as poppy sap and fibres. Examples of opiates include heroin, morphine, and codeine.
Opioids are chemical compounds that are not generally derived from plant matter and are commonly manufactured in a ‘lab’ or ‘synthesized’. Examples of opioids include methadone and fentanyl.
Under UK law, opioids and opiates fall under different classifications, depending on the type of drug. For example, methadone and heroin are Class A drugs, while codeine – an opiate that can be prescribed to treat pain in medical settings – is a Class B drug.
Opiates and opioids are used in a variety of ways, depending on their format. Often, they are ingested in tablet, capsule, or syrup form, but can also be inhaled using a nebuliser, or absorbed via a patch on the skin. They may also be injected or smoked.
What are the side effects of opiates and opioids?
How someone feels and behaves after taking opiates and/or opioids can vary. However, people who misuse these substances may experience mood and sleep changes and can be prone to poor decision making.
The physical side effects of opiates and opioids can depend on several factors, including how the drug is ingested, frequency of use, and the metabolism and weight of the person.
Some common side effects include:
- Dilated pupils
- Raised body temperature
- Reduced blood pressure and slower heart rate
- Urinary retention
- Constricted pupils
- Respiratory depression (slow/ineffective breathing)
When injected, adverse effects include vein damage, infections, and blood clots.
A person who injects opiates or opioids is also at an increased risk of overdosing or contracting life-altering infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. This risk is even greater among users who share needles.
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