Health experts in Wales rising concern over surge in counterfeit drugs bought from ‘online pharmacies’
Health experts in Wales are increasingly concerned about the growing number of individuals purchasing fake drugs from purported “online pharmacies”, under the impression that they are procuring legitimate medicinal products.
The Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances (WEDINOS) Annual Report 2022-23 reveals a significant increase in samples containing “unknown” substances.
The report indicates that 39% of samples submitted to WEDINOS, a drug testing service operated by Public Health Wales, in the past year did not contain the substances the buyer expected.
This figure has risen from 35% in the previous year.
Bromazolam, an illicit drug, was most commonly identified within the community and was often mis-sold as diazepam.
The fact that Bromazolam is more potent than diazepam heightens the risk of harm and overdose to unsuspecting users.
Health experts are raising the alarm over the serious implications these counterfeit drugs, readily available online, can have on people’s health.
Buyers often have little to no knowledge of what they are actually ingesting, and at what dosage.
Professor Rick Lines, Head of Substance Misuse at Public Health Wales and WEDINOS, expressed the importance of the findings:
“Our work gives early warning to problems within the illicit drugs market.”
“Our monitoring allows timely and accurate information regarding the chemical profile of samples, alongside appropriate harm reduction information, to substance misuse services and the public.”
In total, WEDINOS received and analysed 6,656 samples from 74 services and settings across the UK last year, as well as from individuals.
The most commonly identified chemical group of psychoactive substances were benzodiazepines, for the fifth year running.
Tragically, the misuse of these substances has proven fatal, with 61 drug misuse deaths in Wales involving benzodiazepines in 2021, up from 35 in 2020.
Furthermore, the report highlights that nitazines, another type of drug, are being substituted.
None of the samples submitted in the belief that they contained oxycodone or benzodiazepines were found to contain nitazines post-analysis.
Cocaine was the most commonly identified substance in all samples, with bromazolam and MDMA the most commonly identified in community submissions.
Public Health Wales continues to produce reports and information to influence both national and international policy, advocating for an evidence-based approach to protect and improve health.
Those seeking support for drug or alcohol-related concerns can contact the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline on Freephone 0808 808 2234, text DAN to 81066, or visit dan247.org.uk.
Further information on WEDINOS is available at www.wedinos.org and on substance misuse from Public Health Wales at www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/72997.
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