Dundee drugs warning over super-strength Nitazene linked to deaths in Scotland

Dundee drug prevention bosses have issued a warning over a super-strength street drug linked to new deaths in Scotland in the past six months.

Nitazene is an extremely powerful opioid painkiller which can lead to an increased risk of overdose.

It is feared the drug could fuel a resurgence in the crisis which has gripped Dundee over the past decade at a time when the city appears to be turning a corner.

Dundee was previously branded the drugs death capital of Europe due to the high rate of fatalities.

But last year’s figure of 38 deaths in the city was the lowest recorded since 2016, and 14 fewer than in 2021.

New statistics released by police this week show Dundee performing better than other areas such as Glasgow and Edinburgh.

However, the city’s alcohol and drug partnership warned taking opioids such as nitazine along with other substances puts addicts at risk of increased harm.

‘Alerts have been issued’

In a statement, the group said: “The Dundee alcohol and drug Partnership (ADP) remain alert to all emerging drug trends including the concerns associated with nitazene.

“Local agencies are very aware of the situation, and warnings and alerts have been issued.

“Whenever someone takes a substance they should do so with caution and we would strongly recommend avoiding taking multiple drugs together as this considerably increases the risk of harm.

They added: “Nitazene-containing substances are counter-acted by naloxone and we would urge that anyone who is taking drugs has a naloxone kit to hand and knows how to administer it.”

Across Scotland, the latest police figures showed there were an estimated 900 drug deaths this year up to September, 103 more people than in 2022 in the same period.

There were 1,195 suspected drug fatalities over the 12 months up to September – a 10% rise compared to the year before.

Dundee Labour MSP Michael Marra.

Dundee-based Labour MSP Michael Marra said: “Services are right to highlight just how dangerous this can be and all public agencies engaged with drug users will be sure to let clients know this has now appeared in Dundee.”

North East Tory MSP Tess White said: “Far too many people in Dundee and the surrounding communities have lost their lives to drugs and my thoughts are with those grieving the loss of a loved one.”

Kirsten Horsburgh, CEO of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “Dundee has a disproportionate share of drug harms including deaths and this situation may worsen if we do not act now.

“We need to make sure that people have naloxone and carry it with them. Nitazenes may mean that people need more than doses than usual to reverse an overdose.”

Scottish Government drugs policy minister Elena Whitham
SNP drugs minister Elena Whitham.

Scottish Government drugs minister Elena Whitham said drug deaths in Scotland are still too high.

“Through our national mission on drugs, I’m focused on supporting those affected by problem substance use, delivering real change on the ground and implementing evidence-based approaches to improve and save lives,” she added.

“As the threat grows from the unexpected presence in the drug supply from highly potent synthetic opioids such as nitazenes which bring increased risks of overdose and death, we have also developed our surveillance abilities.”

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