Government Takes Action Against Deadly Synthetic Opioids


The Home Secretary has instructed the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to advise on tighter controls on brophine and metonitazene, before they are banned in the UK, announced the Ministry of the Interior today (Wednesday 15 June).

Brorphine, known as “purple heroin” and similar to fentanyl, can cause life-threatening depression and respiratory arrest. It has been detected in fake painkiller tablets, such as oxycodone, and in blood samples from at least 60 fatal and non-fatal overdoses abroad involving users of multiple substances.

Reports have shown that the effects of metonitazene, another synthetic opioid, indicate a potency between 30 and 200 times that of morphine and has been linked to at least 20 deaths in the United States.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

Drugs destroy lives and devastate families and communities, which is why I am taking action now to prevent further loss of life and to stop criminals from profiting from the misery of others.

This is part of our 10-year drug strategy to reduce the demand, tackle the supply of narcotics and make our streets safer, and we will carefully consider expert advice from the ACMD on tightening restrictions of these deadly substances.

Prior to controlling these drugs, the Home Secretary has a legal duty to instruct the ACMD to advise it on proper classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and associated regulations.

Currently, both substances are covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which means that while supply is illegal, possession is not.

Due to worrying reports of the effects of these two substances, the UK alongside other countries voted in favor of international controls at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs earlier this year.

The government’s 10-year drug strategy provides a comprehensive systems approach to addressing the harms associated with the use and supply of illicit drugs.

The strategy includes measures such as:

  • dismantling of more than 2,000 county lines;
  • investing a record £780million in the drug treatment system to help people get off the drugs that fuel crime in the first place; and
  • causing a generational shift in the demand for illegal drugs, ensuring that people face harsher consequences for so-called recreational abuse.
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