Warning over growing threat from new synthetic opioids

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Twenty-five new synthetic opioids were detected in Europe between 2009 and 2016.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has warned that highly potent synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl derivatives, are presenting a growing health threat in Europe.

In its European Drug Report 2017: Trends and Developments published this week, the EMCDDA said while new synthetic opioids represent a small share of the market, there has been an increase in the number of reports of the emergence of these substances and of the harms they cause. Earlier this year, the EMCDDA carried out risk assessments of acryloylfentanyl and furanyl-fentanyl, after more than 50 deaths associated with these substances were reported.

Typically, new synthetic opioids produce the same toxic effects as opioids including respiratory depression and respiratory arrest, loss of consciousness and coma, miosis, nausea, and drowsiness. The EMCDDA has warned however that the fentanils in particular are exceptionally potent and pose a serious risk. This risk, it says, is not only to users but to those who may be accidentally exposed to these drugs via skin contact such as emergency service personnel.

The report also detailed how drug overdose deaths are continuing to rise in Europe, with an estimated 8,441 overdose deaths in Europe in 2015.

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