Illicit and Fake Benzodiazepines - PHE Alert

Published: 27 July 2020

Public Health England (PHE) have issued an alert regarding the availability of, and harm from, illicit drugs sold as benzodiazepines particularly when used in conjunction with alcohol and drugs with a respiratory depressant effect including gabapentinoids and opioids.

People who use drugs, or are believed to be at risk of taking these drugs, should follow this harm reduction advice and information from PHE:

  • avoid buying or using tablets sold as benzodiazepines, most often diazepam (often referred to as ‘Valium’), temazepam and alprazolam (often referred to as ‘Xanax’). This includes tablets known as and/or marked with ‘DAN 5620’ (on one side) and ‘10’ (on the other), ‘T-20’, ‘TEM 20’, ‘Bensedin’ and ‘MSJ’, which may contain dangerously potent benzodiazepines, or other dangerous substances not for medical use
  • don’t use any combination of benzodiazepines, opioids such as heroin and gabapentinoids such as gabapentin and pregabalin, with or without alcohol.
  • if you’re going to use any drugs, make sure someone is around when you take them (if you overdose alone nobody can help you)
  • be extra cautious about the sources from which you get your drugs, and about the drugs you take, test the dose by starting with a small test dose (1/2 a pill) and waiting at least an hour before taking more
  • seek treatment for your drug use if it is causing you problems and you are not already in treatment

If you are with someone when taking drugs:

  • watch carefully for the signs of an overdose like drowsiness, shallow breathing, dizziness, poor balance, muscle weakness, fainting and unconsciousness.
  • If someone overdoses:
  • call 999 immediately for an ambulance

  -     give them any available naloxone if you think they have taken opioids and are competent to do so

  -     give immediate first aid basic life support (recovery position and monitor the airway, breathing and pulse)

  -     do not assume that a person who is still functioning normally will not worsen later – stay with them until the ambulance arrives.

  • Summary: