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Illicit online ‘prescription’ drugs health warning

05 Sep 2022 3 minute read
The 2021-2022 WEDINOS report

‘Prescription’ sedatives sold online are often posing serious health risks, a report published by Public Health Wales (PHW) has stated.

More than half the samples collected, 57.3 per cent, of the sedative Diazepam sold online contained no traces of it at all, the Annual Report for 2020-21 states.

Experts, including Josie Smith, head of substance misuse for PHW, warn that these drugs can have serious implications on health.  

“The concerns for public health remain as these products are not pharmaceutical grade and, despite their appearance, they are counterfeit. 

“Counterfeit products, as evidenced by WEDINOS (Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances) can contain different substances and dose ranges.  

“This means that individuals who consume these products are not aware of the dose, time of onset of effects, duration of effects or contraindications with other substances or medications.”

She added that, as a consequence, they would be at higher risk of potential health and other harms. 

“We would urge anyone requiring this medication to always speak to and source it through a health professional, with a prescription.” 

Post-Covid rise

Following easing of Coronavirus restrictions, WEDINOS has seen sample submissions rise by 92.6 per cent over the last 12 months, while community submissions increased by almost 60 per cent.  

WEDINOS has also seen a 14.6 percent increase in the number of substances identified. 

This Year 2021/22 saw 7,457 samples received, an increase of 92.6 percent from 2020/21.  

According to this year’s report, the number of hospital admissions for poisonings with named illicit drugs has decreased by 11.8 percent in the last year, from 6,295 in 2019-20 to 5,554 in 2020-21.

In 2020, 224 deaths due to drug poisoning were registered in Wales, a decrease of 6.7 percent from the previous calendar year. Of all drug poisoning deaths, 149 (66.5 percent) were identified as a drug misuse death, a decrease of 9.7 percent from 165 deaths in 2019.5.

Most commonly identified mind altering substances.

The most commonly identified chemical group of psychoactive substances submitted for the fourth year in a row, were benzodiazepines.

As with the previous three year’s findings, diazepam topped the list with Etizolam the second most commonly identified substance, with 358 identifications, despite it being reported on only 46 occasions as purchase intent.

Etizolam is commonly used as a substitute for diazepam, but also within samples submitted as alprazolam.

Etizolam is more potent than diazepam. This is a potential risk for individuals using benzodiazepines as dosage and potency varies greatly.

In a return to pre-Covid-19 restriction trends, Cocaine was the most common psychoactive substance identified by WEDINOS.

It is likely that this is as a result of the re-opening of night time economy venues, and the increased receipt of samples from the amnesty bins at those type of venues.

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