A warning has been issued as a powerful new 'Frankenstein drug' that is 50 times more powerful than fentanyl hits the streets of the UK.
And healthcare professionals have explained just how strong - and lethal - this drug really is.
The synthetic opioids are called nitazenes, and are extremely potent and pose a great risk of overdose and even death.
Retired Birmingham GP Judith Yates, who collates drug statistics, explained: "The strength of these drugs varies but some are 50 times more potent than fentanyl, so just a tiny amount will go a long way for dealers."
But, without a proper pharmaceutical lab, it's nearly impossible to accurately measure out 'safe' doses of the drug, hence the increased risk of overdosing.
Nitazenes come in many forms, including powders and crystalline solids. They have also been found to be cut into fake oxycodone tablets, heroin, ketamine and synthetic cannabinoids.
Drug expert Tony D’Agostino told The Sun: “They are called Frankenstein drugs because they can be mixed with tablets or powder. They don’t have a ‘face’ or any sort of look.
“They can make their way into the heroin supply chain and Xanax-type drugs that are bought online or through social media.
“The bigger worry is if they make their way into the cannabis market because up to 16 million Brits take cannabis."
He explained how the powerful drugs have actually been around for decades after being developed by a Swiss company in the 1950s - but were shelved due to their potency.
Now, nitazenes are flooding the UK drug market as the heroin supply from Afghanistan starts to run out due to a block imposed by the Taliban.
A police raid in Waltham Forest in October found approximately 150,000 nitazene tablets.
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who is leading the investigation, said: "Synthetic opioids have been detected in batches of heroin found in London and across the UK; they substantially raise the risk of incredibly serious harm to the user and are believed to be linked to a number of deaths."
Elsewhere in Dublin, the drug is thought to have been cut into a batch of drugs, causing 57 people to overdose in a matter of days.
And, following multiple detections of the drug in Lothian, Grampian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, A RADAR alert from Public Health Scotland says: "There is an increase in the availability of a new type of synthetic opioid drugs called nitazenes. They are also known as 2-benzyl benzimidazole opioids."
While PHS recommends users stay away from the opioids altogether, they say you can mitigate the risks by testing them before use, taking a smaller dose, avoid mixing drugs and taking them in company.
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