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Watch out for symptoms of opioid overdose in heroin users


Watch out for symptoms of opioid overdose in heroin users

By Neil Trainis

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has urged pharmacists to make their teams aware that patients who take heroin could be at risk of death from severe toxicity because the drug could contain synthetic opioids.

The regulator said there has been a rise in drug overdoses, mainly from heroin, in the last eight weeks in the UK, resulting in some deaths. However, the MHRA also said testing revealed the presence of strong synthetic opioids in the heroin known as nitazenes which could be as potent and toxic as fentanyl and about 100 times as strong as morphine.

The MHRA, who said there had been “an unusual increase” in opioid drug deaths caused by heroin containing nitazenes, warned potent synthetic opioids have also been found in fake oxycodone tablets and benzodiazepines as well as synthetic cannabinoids.

It said pharmacy teams should be aware of the risks of “severe toxicity resulting from adulteration of heroin with potent synthetic opioids” and be able to quickly assess a suspected opioid overdose case.

Pharmacy teams were told to ensure they can provide or administer naloxone if appropriate and make it available to heroin users and other patients who are at risk of an opioid overdose.

Teams were also told to tell heroin users about the risks and ways to reduce that risk. The MHRA said these actions should be completed “no later” than August 4.


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