Nitazenes: Drug death fears over super-strength opioids public health experts fear could soon hit Calderdale's streets

A super strong group of opioids shelved in the 1960s has been obtained by criminal gangs and could cause deaths among Calderdale drug users, health partners fear.
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Public health inclusion partnership manager Niamh Cullen told a meeting of Calderdale health partners they may have heard Nitazenes in news reports of 50 deaths in Birmingham over two months this summer.

She said when she left work on Friday nights, she feared there could be deaths overnight, with the possibility they might find their way into drugs used by some attenders of the borough’s night time economy.

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Ms Cullen said NHS and policing partners were likely to have informed them of the drugs.

There are concerns the drugs will soon be on Calderdale's streetsThere are concerns the drugs will soon be on Calderdale's streets
There are concerns the drugs will soon be on Calderdale's streets

“But we have an absolute nightmare scenario emerging in terms of deaths and risks,” she told Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board.

She explained the background was the Taliban’s destruction of 95 per cent of Afghanistan’s poppy fields in order to plant wheat, leading to scarcity of heroin.

“The really scary thing is that in the 50s and 60s there was a group of drugs called Nitazenes – a synthetic opium – that was developed.

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“It was too strong to ever be used for anything, it was shelved.

“Now the organised crime groups and dealers are accessing that and buying it on the dark net,” she said.

Ms Cullen said it would affect Calderdale’s heroin users, who would have some tolerance but there were also other concerns.

“We’ve got a huge powder cocaine market in our night-time economy – everybody will know somebody that’s affected or impacted by that.

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“When they’re bagging up the drugs it would only take a few grains of these Nitazenes to get into that cocaine powder and we’ve got a nightmare,” she said.

Ms Culllen said in the last few weeks when she left work in Halifax on a Friday night she was “terrified that, actually, we could have three or four deaths over night, no matter what we do".

“We do need to be really vigilant.”

The board was hearing a wider discussion of how the National Drug Strategy was being implemented locally, including how health partners might combat such issues.