News story

Fifteen new synthetic opioids to be made illegal

Fifteen new synthetic opioids and 5 other drugs will be banned as Class A drugs as the government continues to act to prevent drug deaths.

Twenty dangerous drugs will be banned to protect people in the UK from overdoses and drug related deaths.

Following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), 15 new dangerous synthetic opioids will become Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Possession of a Class A drug carries a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. If caught supplying, an offender can face up to life imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Many of these substances are incredibly dangerous and have similar effects to heroin and fentanyl, posing a higher risk of accidental overdose. This has been a widespread problem in other countries.

Although there is no current evidence to show these substances are prevalent in the UK, there have been some deaths linked to the drugs which is why the government is taking decisive action to safeguard communities.

Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp said:

These new highly dangerous substances have the potential to devastate lives, ruin families and damage local communities.

We must be one step ahead to ensure we are stopping new drugs from plaguing our streets and endangering the lives of vulnerable people.

Our strategy is to tackle both the illicit supply of drugs, relentlessly pursuing criminal networks, and to build a world-class treatment system to turn people’s lives around and stop the cycle of crime.

The fifteen new synthetic opioids to be added to Class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, subject to parliamentary approval, are:

  • metonitazene

  • protonitazene

  • isotonitazene

  • butonitazene

  • flunitazene

  • metodesnitazene (metazene)

  • etodesnitazene (etazene)

  • N-pyrrolidino-etonitazene (etonitazepyne)

  • N-piperidinyl-etonitazene (etonitazepipne)

  • N-pyrrolidino protonitazene

  • ethyleneoxynitazene

  • N-desethyl protonitazene

  • N-desethylisotonitazene

  • N-desethyl-etonitazene

  • brorphine

The ban comes as part of the government’s continued efforts to tackle the supply of dangerous drugs and clamp down on crime. Since April 2022, we have:

  • closed over 1,700 county lines
  • delivered over 4,900 organised crime group disruptions
  • delivered 12,000 more treatment places

compared to March 2020.

Five other drugs will also be controlled as part of the recent ban, including cumyl-PeGaClone, a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist (SCRA) which can cause complications such as seizures and liver failure.

Three stimulants which create similar effects to ketamine - diphenidine, ephenidine and methoxyphenidine - will also be controlled as Class B drugs.

Finally, a short acting benzodiazepine drug named remimazolam will also be controlled as a Class C drug. Its legitimate medical uses will then be enabled through amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Published 27 November 2023