Government bans 15 synthetic opioids

Government bans 15 synthetic opioids

The UK government has banned 15 additional synthetic opioids in a bid to reduce drug-related deaths and crack down on suppliers.

The substances, including 14 nitazenes, are now categorised as Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Crime and Policing Minister, Chris Philip, said of the ban: “Synthetic opioids are significantly more toxic than heroin and have led to thousands of deaths overseas.

“We are determined to ensure these destructive and lethal drugs do not take hold in our communities in the UK”.

Five other drugs have also been controlled as Class B drugs, including three stimulants which mimic the effects of ketamine: diphenidine, ephenidine and methoxyphenidine.

What are synthetic opioids?

Synthetic opioids are man-made substances that are synthesised in a laboratory and are designed to mimic the effects of opiates: natural chemical compounds that are extracted from plant matter, such as poppy sap and fibres.

Examples of opiates include heroin, morphine, and codeine.

Synthetic opioids are highly addictive, and often far more potent than opiates, meaning there is a much higher risk of accidental overdose when using these substances.

Examples of synthetic opioids include fentanyl and nitazenes.

According to the National Crime Agency, more than 100 UK deaths have been linked to nitazenes since summer 2023.

Opiate & opioid facts

What are nitazenes?

Originally developed in the 1950s as potential analgesics – but never marketed – nitazenes are a category of synthetic opioids that are incredibly dangerous.

The effects of these substances, which also fall under the category of New Psychoactive Substances, ‘legal highs’ or ‘designer drugs’, are designed to mimic that of opiates.

However, their danger lies in the fact that they can be hundreds of times more potent than ‘traditional’ opiates like heroin.

Nitazenes are typically smoked, inhaled, injected, or swallowed in tablet form.

As a leading UK provider of drug testing services, we have seen an increasing number of sample donors testing positive for these substances in our laboratory in recent months.

This demonstrates how nitazenes have begun to flood the UK market, bringing with them an increased risk of addiction and overdose.  

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Our state-of-the-art, ISO 17025-accredited laboratory can test for a wide variety of drugs – including non-standard substances such as nitazenes, and other designer drugs.

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