There has been an increase of nitazenes detected across the UK drug supply. These substances are a class of synthetic opioids that are believed to be as strong (or stronger) than fentanyl.
The 2022 Afghan ban on heroin production, jointly with a spike in heroin price and availability across Europe, may have triggered its appearance in the market.
And while the drug has circulated around the UK for a while, it's been connected to a spike in deaths in 2023.
Nitazenes don’t have a particular look, and can be bought as a powder or pressed into pills.
WEDINOS, a drug testing lab in Wales, has detected nitazenes in:
- Opioids (Oxycodone/oxycontin)
- Illegal vapes (unclear if for cannabis or nicotine)
We've produced alongside EuroNPUD and other drug treatment service colleagues in the UK some harm reduction tips on staying safe. These are available to print and hand out to people using drugs or know someone that could be exposed to nitazenes.
Some of the key advice (more can be found here) includes:
1. Test your drugs
You can send anonymous drug samples to WEDINOS (wedinos.org) and get test results in a couple of days. Fentanyl test strips don’t work with nitazenes.
2. Start low, go slow / Don’t use alone
Start with low doses and wait for peak effects to pass before redosing. Consider staggering doses with a friend to ensure you can help each other if needed.
3. Carry naloxone
A no brainer! Especially because nitazenes are showing up in all supply, not just opioids. Get it from your local drug service. Learn how to detect an overdose and what to do. Multiple doses may be needed.
Find out where you can get naloxone or needles/syringes posted straight to your home here.