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Counterfeit diazepam sales remain ‘alarmingly high’ in Wales

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Counterfeit diazepam sales remain ‘alarmingly high’ in Wales

A new report published by Public Health Wales has revealed that substitutions in the illegal sale of diazepam remain “alarmingly high,” with almost 60 per cent of tested samples containing no trace of the sedative.

The annual report from the Welsh Emerging Drugs & Identification of Novel Substances (WEDINOS) project, which allows members of the public to submit samples of illicit substances on an anonymous basis, found that 57.3 per cent of 1,045 samples submitted “in the belief they were diazepam” did not contain the drug.

Benzodiazepines have “remained the most commonly identified chemical group of psychoactive substances for half a decade,” said the report, with a total of 20 benzodiazepines profiled in 2021-22.

Cocaine was the most commonly identified substance in the community, followed by diazepam.

The project noted that these drugs are “often bought easily online” and can pose serious harm to individuals as they “have no idea what they are actually ingesting and at what dose”.

WEDINOS contributed to an ITV investigation this summer that found dozens of websites were illegally selling pills labelled as prescription medicines, with many containing different strengths or substances to those advertised.

The report noted that of the top 50 ‘dark web’ vendors between 2011 and 2020, eight per cent “primarily sold benzodiazepines,” while data from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 pointed to a 19.3 per cent rise in deaths involving benzodiazepines in England and Wales.  

Josie Smith, head of substance misuse for Public Health Wales and programme lead for Wedinos, said: “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, 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 and as a consequence are at higher risk of potential health and other harms.“

Following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, WEDINOS has seen a dramatic rise in activity, with sample submissions rising by 92.6 per cent to 7,457 samples.

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