Benzodiazepine market – strong drugs in circulation

Benzodiazepine tablets in circulation may produce stronger effects than expected. Pills sold as ‘diazepam’, ‘Valium’ or ‘vallies’ may not contain only (or any) diazepam.

Recently, a number of benzodiazepine drugs have been tested by the Welsh drug testing service WEDINOS, and have been found to contain a drug called flubromazolam which is much more potent that diazepam (the drug you usually expect to find in Valium.) This means that you need significantly less to feel the same effects and it is easier to overdose on. Other drugs that have recently been found in ‘street benzos’ include etizolam, flubromazepam, flualprazolam and lorazepam.

The prevalence of benzodiazepines is increasing in various countries across the world and the public health impact is of global concern. In Scotland, benzodiazepine-related deaths have increased from 149 in 2008 to 792 in 2018, so it is important to be extra careful when taking them.

If you choose to take benzos:

  • Test your drugs – if you don’t have access to a drug checking service, reagent testing kits that are available online are not suitable for identifying the presence of new benzodiazepines.
  • Use fentanyl test strips to test for the presence of fentanyl.
  • Purity and strength can vary widely between pills from the same batch/packet – even if they look the same. This can make it difficult to judge your dose and manage your tolerance. 
  • Avoid taking drugs while alone if possible.
  • Take a test dose – start low and go slow.
  • Be aware that benzos can stay in your body for days, sometimes weeks after use so the drug may be active long after the effects have worn off.
  • Avoid mixing with other drugs – combining downers (e.g. alcohol, heroin, methadone, diazepam, etizolam, gabapentin) is extremely risky.
  • Tolerance to benzos can develop up quickly – keep an eye on your use.
  • Sudden withdrawal from heavy/regular use is dangerous and can be fatal. Try to gradually reduce your intake.
  • Carry naloxone if you or anyone else is using opiates like heroin and methadone.
  • Know how to respond to an overdose? Look after your pals and never leave anyone unattended.

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