Seizures of black market diazepam tablets double in the UK in a year

pharmafile | December 5, 2019 | News story | Manufacturing and Production Border Force, Diazepam, NHS, anxiety, opioids 

The number of illegal diazepam tablets seized by the UK Border Force has doubled in a year, going from 545,000 in 2017 to 1.3 million in 2018.

Diazepam, also known as Valium, it a class-C drug that is used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures. The medicine is available on the NHS through prescription. The drug is recommended to be taken for no longer than four weeks. A person caught with the drug without a prescription could face a jail sentence of up to two years.

The drug has become widely available on the black market. Hardyal Dhindsa, the national lead on drug and alcohol abuse for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), said: “It’s hard to see how we’ll tackle this because availability online is so easy. More needs to be done through the health service, the enforcement agencies and public health departments.”

While the internet has made the drug more widely available, it has become more dangerous for people to take. There have been instances where black market diazepam has been found to contain flualprazolam, an unlicensed drug that is more powerful and addictive. At the border there have also been cases of diazepam that has traces of fentanyl – one of the painkillers that has been at the heart of the US opioid crisis.

The issue has become so serious that the Addiction to Online Medicine Service (ATOM) has been established by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

Its consultant psychiatrist, Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, said: “The internet has been a game changer. People are experiencing high anxiety or severe depression or sometimes chronic pain and they find that these drugs make them feel better and their dose just goes up and up and up. If people are addicted to it and they stop suddenly, then they are at risk of having a seizure and of course that could potentially be life-threatening.”

It is unknown how many people are buying illegal or fake diazepam online but the issue is serious enough that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have made seizing it a priority in the past year.

Conor Kavanagh

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