DDN_April_2024 DDN April 2024 | Page 10


Before it ’ s too late

We ’ ve had more than enough time to prepare for the crisis we ’ re facing with nitazenes and other synthetic opioids . It ’ s vital we do the right things now , says Kevin Flemen

We should be very concerned about the issue of highpotency novel opioids . While increased media coverage and the establishment of a ‘ cross-government task force on synthetic opioids ’ are welcome , we are yet to see anything approaching a coherent strategy for the UK . This slow progress will inevitably have fatal consequences .

Given that this crisis was foreseeable it ’ s unforgiveable that we are so badly prepared . Some of the interventions that people are calling for would have an impact , but will take time to deliver . In the meantime responses are needed now , at a local level . Having started to roll out a half-day training module for drug services and other social care organisations I ’ ve had a little snapshot of what is and isn ’ t happening . This has helped refine and inform some things that are rapidly actionable , see my ten-point list opposite .
We can never be certain what the future will hold but in my opinion we are seeing a fundamental and seismic shift in the pattern of opioid use in the UK . This isn ’ t going to be a temporary drought with business as usual soon . We may end up with stability – one or two more popular ( and hopefully less potent ) synthetics becoming the substance of choice . Diluted effectively , with increased knowledge around potency , duration and routes we can reduce risk . Indeed we may end up with less risk – drugs that could be snorted rather than injected , no need to use acidifiers , less bacterial contamination ?
Or conversely we could end up with a repeating cycle of enhanced risk , as compounds are replaced and changed as we saw with synthetic cannabinoids . Either way we need to prepare – and that means some systemic changes to how we engage with emergent drugs . Something that we are currently doing painfully slowly .
Kevin Flemen runs KFx which has offered training and resources on drugs and related issues since 2003 . email kevin @ kfx . org . uk