Gov Bans Synthetic Opioids to Curb Drug Deaths

To stop lethal drugs claiming more lives, 11 synthetic opioids will be banned in the UK, the Home Office announced today (3 February 2023).

On the recommendation of Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), 10 additional nitazenes and brorphine will be made Class A substances.

These highly dangerous drugs are psychoactive substances which can be more potent than fentanyl. To protect lives, their possession will now be illegal and anyone who supplies the drugs will face up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Often mixed into other pills sold on the street, the government commissioned the ACMD to investigate after the substances were linked to rising overdoses in other countries. The ACMD found one drug, isotonitazene, was responsible for 24 fatalities in the UK in 2021 alone. Their recommendation to place all 11 narcotics in Class A has been accepted.

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.

Drugs like these erode our society and we accept the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ recommendations, to bring proper penalties on their supply.

The substances to be added to Class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, subject to Parliamentary approval, are: Butonitazene, Etodesnitazene (etazene), Flunitazene, Isotonitazene, Metodesnitazene (metazene), Metonitazene, N-Desethylisotonitazene, N-Piperidinyl-etonitazene (etonitazepipne), N-Pyrrolidino-etonitazene (etonitazepyne), Protonitazene and Brorphine. Because they have no recognised medical uses in the UK, they will also be placed in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Legislation will be brought forward to control these substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, as soon as possible, when Parliamentary time allows.

The move comes as a UK Drugs Ministerial was held yesterday, with ministers and experts from across the four nations. Chaired by the Policing Minister, it seeks to facilitate a UK-wide approach to tackling substance misuse.

Attendees included Scottish and Welsh representatives, Angela Constance MSP and Lynne Neagle MS, along with representatives from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, and Department for Health and Social Care. Dame Carol Black, Independent Advisor on Combating Drugs, and Owen Bowden-Jones, Chair of the ACMD, were also in attendance.

Delegates shared information on drug-related deaths, including impacts of poly-drug use, as well as drug supply and use across the UK.

The meeting was the third of its kind. It supports the cross-government drug strategy, which brings a whole-system approach to tackling drugs, from enforcement through to treatment. Over 2,900 county lines, which shift drugs around the country, have already been dismantled through the approach. As part of the effort to tackle drug-related deaths, we have also dedicated £780 million to support people through treatment and recovery.

And today, the Department of Health and Social Care has also announced £53m will go to 28 local authorities in England to provide housing support to people in drug and alcohol treatment. The funding strengthens our government-wide commitment to reducing drug use and improving treatment outcomes, as part of the drug strategy.

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