Cumbria Police is teaming up with professionals who help people steer clear of substance misuse to warn of the dangers of buying prescription drugs online.
Constabulary officers and staff from Unity, the alcohol and drug recovery service, are issuing the advice following a number of deaths suspected to be linked to this issue in recent years.
Prescription drugs falling into the bracket of benzodiazepines, which are known as benzos and include diazepam (sometimes referred to as Valium), are suspected to have been a factor in some of the deaths.
Benzodiazepines are a group of sedative drugs that can be prescribed by suitably qualified health professionals, such as a GP, following a consultation undertaken with due care.
Some benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, are prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures (fits) and other health conditions.
Some people may not take their prescribed benzodiazepines as directed or may give or sell this medication to others.
These activities are very dangerous and have led to people dying from unintentional overdoses.
There is also a serious issue of people obtaining drugs similar to diazepam on the internet. People using them can be at a high risk of unintentional overdose.
Buying drugs illegally also means there are no guarantees what these may actually contain.
This issue is being covered under Cumbria Constabulary’s ongoing Operation Level.
Detective Inspector David Howard said: “Buying anything online without knowing the source or seller is dangerous and risky – you don’t know what you will get.
“Certainly, pills and medication normally prescribed by a suitably qualified health professionals such as a GP should never be bought online without a properly conducted consultation.
“Fake and dangerous pills are sold online without any regulations or care for the end user.
“Pills and medications such as this should be prescribed by a suitably qualified health professionals, such as a GP.
“If you suffer any adverse reaction from taking a drug bought online, seek medical help straight away. There is also help and support out there for people affected by drug use.
“We work closely with partner agencies such as Unity, who can provide people with help, support and guidance.”
Dr Patrick Horgan, Consultant in Substance Misuse at Unity, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), said: “It is very difficult to judge how these kinds of drug will affect people; some benzodiazepines are weak, but some are very strong.
“This means that a small amount can have very strong effects. It also means that the ‘same’ dose from different purchases can have very different effects.
“It is particularly dangerous to use these drugs with alcohol or other sedating drugs such as strong painkillers.
“With this particular group of drugs, people can also experience very severe symptoms when they stop taking them – such as seizures, fits, and hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that are not really there).
“These issues can also be life threatening. Our services are open and available to all those who need us during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you are worried about your or someone else’s alcohol or drug use, then please do get in touch with us.”
Police are also appealing for anyone with information about such sales of prescription drugs to come forward with information.
Anyone with information about drugs supply is asked to contact police on 101.
Alternatively, you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers, completely anonymously, on 0800 555 111.