London, December 05: A potent and hazardous drug, fifty times more potent than fentanyl, is rapidly spreading across the UK, leading to severe health complications such as skin "holes," as reported by Sky News. Known as nitazenes, these synthetic opioids are being blended into substances like heroin, raising alarming concerns among health authorities.
Originally developed around 60 years ago as an alternative to morphine, nitazenes were recently discovered in the UK in 2021 from a sample of white powder found in a taxi in Wakefield. Despite their high overdose potential, they were never officially released for use due to safety concerns. The mixture of nitazenes with fentanyl or other drugs has been linked to numerous overdose fatalities globally.
Individuals consuming these drugs are experiencing harrowing consequences. One person from East London, identified as Rory, shared with Sky News, "I'm seeing people coughing up blood. I'm seeing people dying. Any drug you are buying off the street you're taking a risk. These people are in it for the money and the purer it is, the less they make - so they are putting other stuff in it." Comparatively, fentanyl, the primary drug in north America, is 50 times more potent than heroin. However, nitazenes possess similar properties to fentanyl but can be up to 300 times more powerful than heroin, according to the report by Sky News.
A woman, who chose to remain anonymous, spoke about the dire repercussions of nitazene use. "I've got holes in my legs. There's no skin, just holes. It's painful," she described, pointing towards her bandaged legs. These unusual wounds emerged in the last few months, causing significant distress and pain.
Nitazenes have been discovered in various substances, including heroin, cannabis, cocaine, vape liquids, and frequently in black market pills passed off as diazepam, an anti-anxiety medication. The influx of these synthetic drugs surged due to a Taliban crackdown on heroin production in Afghanistan. This action disrupted the flow of heroin into the UK, previously accounting for 95 per cent of the market. Consequently, the void in the market was filled with easily produced but more perilous synthetic substances.
Abdirahim Hassan, a campaigner against these drugs, highlighted the intensified risk of overdose and fatalities due to the potency and affordability of these synthetic substances. He expressed concern over the lack of adequate testing for these dangerous drugs, leaving people in a precarious state. Nitazenes are typically sold as white powder, crystalline solid, or brown/yellow powder, as outlined by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. They have also been detected in various forms such as tablets (counterfeit oxycodone), heroin, ketamine, and synthetic cannabinoids.