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The Health Service Executive (HSE) has issued a critical risk communication to drug users in response to a recent spike in overdoses reported in Dublin, Galway, and the Mid West. The alert follows an investigation by the Emerging Trends Laboratory at the HSE National Drug Treatment Centre, which identified nitazene in yellow, round counterfeit benzodiazepine tablets linked to these incidents.

Substantial Overdose Risk

Professor Eamon Keenan, HSE National Clinical Lead for Addiction Services, stressed the heightened danger, stating:

“We urge extreme caution following a number of overdoses related to counterfeit benzodiazepine tablets. Preliminary analysis suggests nitazenes, a potent and dangerous synthetic opioid, may be responsible. These pose a substantial risk of overdose, hospitalisation, and death.”

Safety and Harm Reduction Measures

In light of the increased risk, the HSE advises the public to avoid these tablets and follow these harm reduction steps:

  1. Avoid new drugs and sources: Refrain from taking these tablets, new batches of drugs, or drugs from unfamiliar sources due to unknown risks.
  2. Access naloxone: Speak to your local service or doctor about obtaining naloxone, a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of opiate-type drugs, for free. It can keep an overdose victim alive until emergency services arrive.
  3. Seek immediate medical help: If you witness an overdose, get medical assistance right away and stay with the person until help arrives.

Collaborative Monitoring Efforts

In response to the surge in overdoses and the threat posed by nitazene-type substances, the HSE is actively working with various partners. These include hospital emergency departments, emergency services, NGO service providers, An Garda Síochána, and laboratories at the National Drug Treatment Centre and Forensic Science Ireland. Their goal is to closely monitor the situation and conduct ongoing analysis to determine the exact composition of the substances involved.

For updates on drug trends and warnings, visit the HSE’s dedicated page on Drug Trend Updates and Warningsor follow their social media channels.